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The Baldwin Library
THE HOUSE IN TOWN.
PRINTED BY BALLANTYNE AND COMPANY
EDINBURGH AND LONDON
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r :y '(
HOUSE IN TOWN.
1 qEquel to Opportunitics."
BY THE AUTHOR OF
"TIIE IVIDE WIDE WORLD."
"No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this
life, that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier."
-2 TIM. ii. 4.
JAMES NISBET & CO., 21 BERNERS STREET.
THE HOUSE IN TOWN.
NORTON O Norton do you know what has happened 1"
Matilda had left the study and rushed out into the dining-
room to tell her news, if indeed it were news to Norton.
She had heard his step. Norton seemed in. a pre-occupied
state of mind.
"Yes !" he said. "I know that confounded shoemaker
Shas left something in the heel of my boot which is killing
Matilda was not like some children. She could wait;
and she waited, while Norton pulled off his boot, made exa-
minations into the interior, and went stoutly to work with
penknife and file. In the midst of it he looked up, and
"What has happened to you, Pink ?"
"Then don't you know yet, Norton ?"
"Of course not. I would fine all shoemakers who leave
their work in such a slovenly state I If I didn't limp all
the way from the bridge here, it was because I wouldn't,
not because I wouldn't like to."
"Why not limp, if it saved your foot ?" inquired Matilda.
You would, Pink, wouldn't you ?"
"Why, yes; certainly I would."
Well, you might," said Norton. But did you ever read
the story of the Spartan boy and the fox "
2 THE HOUSE IN TOWN.
"He stole a fox," said Norton, working away at the in-
side of his boot, which gave him some trouble.
"But you haven't stolen a fox."
"I should think not," said Norton. "The boy carried
the fox home under his cloak; and it was not a tame fox,
Pink, by any means, and did not like being carried, I sup-
pose; and it cut and bit and tore at the boy all the while,
under his cloak; so that by the time he got the fox home,
it had made an end of him."
"Why didn't he let the fox go 1"
"Ah! why didn't he ?" said Norton. "He was a boy,
and he would have been ashamed."
And you would have been ashamed to limp in the street,
For a nail in my boot. What is a man good for, that
can't stand anything ?"
"I should not have been ashamed at all."
"You're a girl," said Norton, approvingly. "It is a dif-
ferent thing. What is you're news, Pink?"
"But Norton, I don't see why it is a different thing. Why
should not a woman be as brave as a man, and as strong,-
in one way? "
"I suppose, because she is not as strong in the other way.
She hasn't got it to do, Pink; that's all. But a man, or a boy,
that can't bear anything without limping, is a muff; that's
the whole of it."
"A muff's a nice thing," said Matilda, laughing.
"Not if it's a boy," said Norton. "Go on with your
news, Pink. What is it ?"
"I wonder if you know. O Norton do you know what
your mother and Mr Richmond have been talking about ?"
"I wasn't there," said Norton. "If you were, you may
"I was not there. But Mr Richmond has been talking
to me about it. Norton,"-and Matilda's voice sank,-"do
you know, they have been arranging, and your mother wishes
it, that I should stay with her ?"
Matilda spoke the last words very softly, in the manner
THE HOUSE IN TOWN. 3
of one who makes a communication of somewhat awful
character; and in truth it had a kind of awe for her. Evi-
dently not for Norton. He had almost finished his boot,
and he kept on with his filing, as coolly as if what Matilda
said had no particular interest or novelty. She would have
been disappointed, but that she had caught one gleam from
Norton's eye, which flashed like an electric spark. She just
caught it, and then Norton went on calmly-
"I think that is a very sensible arrangement, Pink. I
must say, it is not the first time it has occurred to me."
Then you knew it before ?"
"I did not know they had settled it," said Norton, still
"But you knew it was talked about ? O Norton why
didn't you tell me "
Norton looked up, smiled, dropped his boot, and at once
took his new little sister in his arms, and clasped her right
What for should I tell you, Pink ?" he said, kissing
Matilda's eyes, where the tears of that incipient disappoint-
ment had gathered.
"How could you kelp telling me ?"
"Ah, that is another thing," said Norton. You couldn't
have helped it, could you ?"
"But it is true now, Norton."
"Ay, it is true; and you belong to mamma and me now,
Pink; and to nobody else in the wide world. Isn't that
"And to Mr Richmond," Matilda added.
Not a bit to Mr Richmond-not a fraction," said Norton.
"He may be your guardian and your minister, if you like;
and I like him too; he's a brick; but you belong to nobody
in the whole world but mamma and me."
"Well, Norton," said Matilda, with a sigh of pleasure,
"Glad!" said Norton. "Now come, let us sit right
down, and see some of the things we'll do."
"Yes. But no, Norton; I must get Mr Richmond's sup-
4 THE HOUSE IN TOWN.
per. I shall not have many times more to do that; Miss
Redwood will be soon home, you know."
"And we too, I hope. I declare, Pink, I believe you like
getting supper. Here goes! What is to do l"
"Nothing, for you, Norton."
"Kettle on "
"On ages ago. You may see if it is boiling."
"How can an iron kettle boil ? If you'll tell me that."
Why, the water boils that is in it. The kettle is put for
"And what right have you to put the kettle for the water ?
At that rate, one might do all sorts of things. Now, Pink,
how can I tell if the water boils ? The steam is coming out
of the nose."
That's no sign, Norton. Does it sing ?"
"Sing said Norton. "I never learned kettle music.
No, I don't think it does. It bubbles; the water in it, I
Matilda came in laughing. "No," she said, "it has
stopped singing; and now it boils. The steam is coming
out from under the cover. That's a sign. Now, Norton, if
you like, you may make a nice plate of toast, and I'11 butter
it. Mr Richmond likes toast, and he is tired to-night, I know."
I can't make a plate," said Norton ; "but I'11 try for the
toast. Is it good for people that are tired ?"
"Anything comfortable is, Norton."
"I wouldn't be a minister," said Norton, softly, as he
carefully turned and toasted the bread,-" I would not be a
minister, for as much as you could give me."
"Why, Norton ? I think I would, if I was a man."
"He has no comfort of his life," said Norton. This sort
of a minister doesn't have. He is always going, going; arid
running to see people that want him, and stupid people, too;
he has to talk to them all the same as if they were clever,
and put up with them; and he's always working at his
sermons, and getting broken off. What comfort of his life
does Mr Richmond have now, except when you and I make
toast for him ?"
THE HOUSE IN TOWN. 5
"O Norton I think he has a great deal."
I don't see it."
Matilda stood wondering, and then smiled; the comfort
of her life was so much just then. The slices of toast were
getting brown and buttered, and made a savoury smell all
through the kitchen; and now Matilda made the tea, and
the flowery fragrance of that added another item to what
seemed the great stock of pleasure that afternoon. As Miss
Redwood had once said, the minister knew a cup of good tea
when he saw it; and it was one of the few luxuries he ever
took pains to secure; and the sweetness of it now, in the
little parsonage kitchen, was something very delicious.
Then Matilda went and put her head in at the study door.
Tea is ready, Mr Richmond."
But the minister did not immediately obey the summons,
and the two children stood behind their respective chairs,
waiting. Matilda's face was towards the western windows.
"Are you very miserable, Pink ?" said Norton, watching
"I am so happy, Norton !"
"I want to get home now," said Norton, drumming upon
his chair. "I want you there. You belong to mamma and
me, and to nobody else in the whole world, Pink; do you
know that "
Except Mr Richmond-was again in Matilda's thoughts;
but she did not say it this time. It was nothing against
"Where is the minister ?" Norton went on. "You called
Oh, he has got some stupid body with him, keeping him
"That is what I said," Norton repeated. "I wouldn't
live such a life-not for money."
Mr Richmond came, however, at this moment, looking not
at all miserable; glanced at the two happy faces with a
bright eye; then for an instant they were still, while the
sweet willing words of prayer went up from lips and heart
to bless the board.
6 THE HOUSE IN TOWN.
"What is it that you would not do for money, Norton 1"
Mr Richmond asked, as he received his cup of tea.
Norton hesitated and coloured. Matilda spoke for him.
Mr Richmond, may we ask you something "
Certainly !" said the minister, with a quick look at the
If you wouldn't think it wrong for us to ask. Is the-
I mean, do you think-the life of a minister is a very hard
"So that is the question, is it ?" said Mr Richmond, smil-
ing. "Is Norton thinking of taking the situation "
Norton thinks it cannot be a comfortable life, Mr Rich-
mond ; and I thought he was mistaken."
What do you suppose a minister's business is, Norton ?
that is the first consideration. You must know what a
man has to do, before you can judge whether it is hard to
I thought I knew, sir."
"Yes, I suppose so; but it don't follow that you do."
"I know part," said Norton. "A minister has to preach
sermons, and marry people, and baptize children, and read
prayers at funerals, and "-
Go on," said Mr Richmond.
"I was going to say, it seems to me, he has to talk to
everybody that wants to talk to him."
How do you get along with that difficulty ?" said Mr
Richmond. "It attacks other people besides ministers."
"I dodge them," said Norton. "But a minister cannot,
-can he, sir ? "
Mr Richmond laughed.
"Well, Norton," he said, "you have given a somewhat
sketchy outline of a minister's life; but my question remains
yet,-what is the business of his life ? You would not say
that planing and sawing are the business of a carpenter's
life-would you ?"
"Building houses, and ships, and barns, and bridges."
THE HOUSE IN TOWN. 7
"-"And a tailor's life is not cutting and snipping, but
making clothes. So my commission is not to make sermons.
What is it ?"
Norton looked at a loss, and expectant; Matilda enjoy-
"The same that was given to the Apostle Paul, and no
worse. I am sent to people to open their eyes, and to turn
them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan
to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and in-
heritance among them which are sanctified.'"
"But I do not understand, Mr Richmond," said Norton,
after a little pause.
"If you will excuse me. I do not understand that. Can
you open people's eyes 1 "
He who sends me does that, by means of the message
which I carry. 'How can they believe on Him of whom
they have not heard.'"
"I see," said Norton, very respectfully.
"You see, I am the King's messenger. And my business
is to carry the King's message. It is possible to make
sermons, and not do that."
"I don't think I ever heard the message, or anything that
sounded like a message, in our church," said Norton.
"Do you know what the message is ? "
Norton looked up from his toast, and seemed a little taken
You might have heard it without knowing it."
Might It What is the message, sir ?"
"This is it. That God wants and calls for the love of
every human heart; and that on His part He loves us so
well, as to give His own Son to die for us, that we might be
saved through Him."
Why to die for us ?" inquired Norton.
"Because we all deserved to die, and He took our place.
'He tasted death for every man.' So for you and for
me. What do we owe to one who gave His life to ransom
8 THE HOUSE IN TOWN.
"I see," said Norton again, thoughtfully. "But, Mr Rich-
mond, people do not always hear the message, do they ?"
"You can tell," said Mr Richmond, shortly. "I see,"
repeated Norton. "It isn't making sermons. I don't see,
though, why it isn't a hard life."
"That requires another explanation, but it is not difficult.
How would one naturally feel, Norton, towards another,
who, by his own suffering and death, had saved him when he
was bound to die? "
You mean, who had done it on purpose ?" said Norton.
"On purpose. Just because he loved the lost one."
"Why," said Norton, "if the man had any heart in
"Well? What then?"
Why, he wouldn't think that his hand was his own."
He would belong to his redeemer ?"
"So I think, Norton. Then, tell me, do you think it
would be hard work to do anything to please or serve such
a friend ? Would even hardships seem hard ?"
I can't think what zould seem hard," said Norton, eagerly.
But then a silence fell upon the little party. Matilda had
opened all her ears to hear Norton speak in this manner;
she was excit-ed; she almost thought that he was about to
enter into the life he seemed to understand so well; but Mr
Richmond went on with his tea quite composedly, and
Norton was a little embarrassed. What was the matter?
Matilda wished some one would speak again ; but Mr
Richmond sent his cup to be filled, and stirred it, and
took another piece of toast, and Norton never raised his
eyes from his plate.
That idea is new to you, my boy ?" said Mr Richmond
at last, smiling.
"I never-well, yes;-I do not understand those things,"
"You understood this?"
"Your words ? yes, sir."
"And the thing which my words meant ?"
THE HOUSE IN TOWN. 9
"I suppose-yes, I suppose I do," said Norton.
"Do you understand the bearing of it on all of us three
at the table."
Norton looked up inquiringly.
"You comprehend how it touches me ?"
Yes, sir," Norton answered, with profound respect in
eye and voice.
The boy's eye went quick and sharp to the little figure at
the head of the table. What his look meant, Matilda could
not tell; and he did not speak.
"You comprehend how it touches Matilda ?" Mr Rich-
"No, sir," was answered, rather stoutly. It had very much
the air of not wanting to know.
"You should understand, if you are to live in the same
house together. The same Friend has done the same kind-
ness for Matilda that He has done for me ; He has given
Himself to death that she might live ; and she has heard it
and believed it, and obeyed His voice, and become His ser-
vant. What sort of life ought she to live ?"
Norton stared at Mr Richmond, not in the least rudely,
but like one very much discomfited. He looked as if he
were puzzling to find his way out of a trap. But Matilda
clapped her hands together, exclaiming-
"I am so glad Norton understands that! I never could
make him understand it."
Why, you never tried," said Norton.
"Oh yes, I did, Norton ; in different ways. I suppose I
never said it so that you could understand it."
"I don't understand it now," said Norton.
"0 Mr Richmond! don't he ?" said Matilda.
Tell him," said the minister. "Perhaps you put it too
cautiously. Tell him, in words that he cannot mistake, what
sort of life you mean to lead."
The little girl hesitated and looked at Norton. Norton,
like one acting under protest, looked at her. They waited,
questioning each other's faces.
10 THE HOUSE IN TOWN.
"It is that, Norton," Matilda said at last, very geritly,
and with a sort of tenderness in tone and manner which
spoke for her. It is just as you said. I do not think that
my hand is my own."
Norton looked at the little hand unconsciously extended
to point her words, as if he would have liked to confiscate
it; he made no reply, but turned to his supper again. The
conversation had taken a turn he did not welcome.
We have not done with the subject," Mr Richmond
went on. "You see how it touches me now, and how it
touches Matilda. You know, by your own showing, what
sort of life she ought to lead; and so you will know how
you ought to help her, and not hinder her in it. But, Norton,
-how does it touch you "
The boy was not ready with an answer. Then he said-
I don't see that it touches me any way, sir."
"On honour," said Mr Richmond, gently. "That same
Friend has done the same kindness for you."
Norton looked as if he wished it were not true; and as if
very unwilling to admit anything.
"I wish you could hear what I hear," said Mr Richmond.
"So many voices !--
"What, sir ?" asked both the children at once.
"So many voices repeated Mr Richmond. I hear the
voice of love now, from the skies, speaking that soft, sweet
'Come !' in the heart. I hear my own voice giving the
message. I hear the promise to them who seek for glory,
honour, and immortality. And I hear the sound of the harps
of those who have a new song to sing, which none can learn
but the hundred and forty and four thousand which have
been redeemed from the earth. And I hear the rejoicing in
heaven of those who will say, 'Thou wast slain, and hast
redeemed us to God by Thy blood, out of every kindred and
tongue and people and nation; and hast made us unto our
God kings and priests, and we shall reign on the earth.'
And then there is a throne and a judgment seat, and I hear
a voice that says, 'Well done, good and faithful servant;
enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.'"
THE HOUSE IN TOWN. 11
Mr Richmond's voice had fallen a little; his eyes were
cast down. Norton's eyes were downcast too; and his
face-it did not respond, as Matilda's face did ; and when the
party rose from table, a minute or two afterwards, Norton
made use of his liberty to quit the room and the house.
Matilda brought her tub of water to wash up the cups and
plates. Mr Richmond had gone off to his study.
The little girl touched the china with soft delicate fingers;
lifted each piece, and set it down with gentle noiselessness;
the little clink of the china keeping measure, perhaps, with
the thoughts which moved and touched, so gently, in her
heart. Presently Mr Richmond came out again. He walked
up and down the little room several times; it was a small
walk, for a very few of his steps took him from one corner
to the other; then he came and stood beside the table where
Matilda was at work. The child stopped and looked up at
him wistfully. Their eyes met; and a smile of much love
and confidence was exchanged between the two.
"Mr Richmond," said Matilda, "isn't it difficult, some-
times, to keep hearing those voices "
You could see the light spring into the young man's eyes;
but he answered very quietly, "Why, Matilda 1"
"I think it is difficult," the child repeated.
You find it so 1"
"I think, sometimes, Mr Richmond, I don't hear them at
"It is not necessary to be always thinking about them."
"No, I know that; but sometimes I seem to get out of
the sound of them."
"How comes that ?"
"I don't know. I think it must be because I am hearing
other voices so much."
"You are right." Mr Richmond began his pacing up and
down again. Matilda stood with a cup in her hands, which
she had been washing, the water dripping from her fingers
and it into the tub.
How can I help it, Mr Richmond 1"
Mr Richmond was thinking perhaps of Fenelon's words:
12 THE HOUSE IN TOWN.
"Oh, how rare is it to find a soul still enough to hear God
speak !" but he did not quote them to the child. He stood
"Tilly, when one gets out of hearing of those voices, the
enemy has a good chance to whisper to us; and he never
loses a chance. That was what happened to Eve in the gar-
den of Eden."
"How can I do, Mr Richmond ?"
"I should say, dear, don't get out of hearing of them."
"But, sometimes "-Matilda paused in difficulty. "Some-
times I am thinking of so many other things, and my head
gets full; and then I do not know where I am."
Mr Richmond smiled. "You could not have given a
better description of the case," he said. "But, Matilda,
when you find that you do not know where you are, run
away, shut yourself up, and find out. It isn't safe to get
out of hearing of the Lord's voice."
0 Mr Richmond !" said the child. "I want to be where
I can hear it all the time."
"There is one way. Don't you know it ?"
"No, sir; I don't think I do."
My dear child, it is very simple. Only obey His voice
when you hear it, and it will always be with you. Obedi-
ence is the little key that unlocks the whole mystery,-the
whole mystery," said Mr Richmond, beginning to walk up
and down again. "When you hear ever so soft a whisper
in your heart, saying, 'This is the way, follow there; and
so the Lord will lead you always."
Mr Richmond went off to his study, but paused again to
say, Study the twenty-third verse of the fourteenth chapter
of John, Matilda; and take that for your rule."
Matilda went about softly, putting the china in the pantry,
making the table clean, hanging up her towel, and putting
away her tub. Just as she had finished, Mr Richmond
opened the door. He had his hat and great coat on.
"Tilly, look after my fire, will you?" he said. "I shall
be gone some time, probably."
MATILDA went to the study. It was in winter trim now.
The red curtains fell over the windows; a carpet had re-
placed or covered the summer mat; the lamp was lighted, but
burned low; and a fire of nut wood sticks blazed ahd
crackled softly in the chimney. The whole room was sweet
with the smell of it. Matilda sat down on the rug, in front
of the blaze ; but she was hardly there when she heard the
front door open, and Norton come in. So she called him to
"Is the dominie gone out V" said Norton, as he entered
Mr Richmond's sanctum.
"Gone out for a good while, he said. You and I have
got to take care of the fire." And Matilda threw herself
down on the rug again.
This is jolly," said Norton.
"Isn't it?" said Matilda. "It is so nice here. And do
you smell, Norton, how sweet it is with the hickory wood ?"
"That isn't hickory," said Norton. It's oak."
"Part of it is hickory, Norton, I know. But I suppose
oak is sweet."
"I think everything is sweet to you," said Norton.
"I do think it is," said Matilda. Everything is to-night,
I am sure. Everything. Isn't this just as pleasant as it
can be "
"It's jolly," said Norton. "Let's have on another stick.
Now, we can think and talk what we will do."
"What we will do, Norton ?" Matilda repeated.
"Yes. We've got no end of things to do. Why, now we
can do what we like, Pink. You aren't going away any
more ; and we can just lay our plans in comfort."
"I didn't know we had any plans to lay," said Matilda.
14 THE HOUSE IN TOWN.
She looked as if the present was good enough. The firelight
shone on a little figure and face of most utter contentment,
there, down on the rug; a soft little head, a very gentle face,
but alive with pleasant thoughts.
"We want to get home now," continued Norton.
But it is pleasant here too. O Norton !" Matilda broke
out suddenly, "you don't know how pleasant! Now I can
take the good of it. I did before, in a way; but then I was
always thinking it would maybe stop to-morrow. Now it
will never stop; I am so glad!"
What will never stop ?"
"Oh, I don't know. It seems to me my happiness will
never stop. You don't know anything about it, Norton.
To think I am not to go back to that old life again-I was
afraid of it every day; and now to-night at tea, and now, I
am as happy as I can be. I can't think of it enough."
"Of what, Pink?"
Of that. That I am not to go back to Aunt Candy any
"What do you think of where you are going ?" asked
Norton, a little jealously. But his face cleared the next
"Norton," said Matilda, "I can't think of it,-not yet.
It is too good to think of all at once. I have to take part at
a time. If I did think of it, I don't know but it would seem
too good to be true."
Well, it isn't," said Norton. "Now, Pink, we'11 fix those
hyacinth and tulip beds all right. You haven't chosen your
bulbs yet. And then, when we have planted our bulbs-I
hope it is not too late yet, but I declare I don't know !-
perhaps we 'll leave the winter to take care of them, and
we'll go off to New York till spring. How would you like
"I don't care where I go," said Matilda, "with you and
"You never saw New York, did you ?"
"No, never. Is it pleasanter than Briery Bank, Nor-
THE HOUSE IN TOWN. 15
"Well, not when the tulips are out, perhaps; but in the
cold weather it's jolly enough. It's queer, though."
"Queer ?" repeated Matilda, curiously.
"I wonder if you wouldn't think so," said Norton. "I
don't mean New York, you know; that's all right; but our
"I didn't know you had a house in New York," said
"No, of course not; how should you? but now it's
different. Pink, it is very jolly !" said Norton, quitting his
seat in the chimney corner, and coming down on the rug
beside Matilda. That's a good fire to roast chestnuts."
"Is it ? but we haven't any chestnuts to roast," said
"That's another thing you don't know," said Norton.
"We've got a lot of chestnuts,-splendid ones, too. I'll
fetch 'em, and we'll roast some. It's the very best way."
Norton went off for a basket, which proved to be full of
brown, plump chestnuts, large and shining, as they should be.
Sitting down upon the rug again, he began to prepare some
for roasting, by cutting a small bit off one corner. Matilda
picked up these bits of skin, and threw them into the fire as
fast as they were cut.
"Never mind," said Norton. "We 'll sweep 'em up in a
heap at the end, and make one job of it."
But Mr Richmond might come in."
"Well, he has seen chestnuts before," said Norton,
"I don't believe he has seen people cutting and roasting
them in his study, though."
"All right. We'll give him some."
But what are you doing that for, Norton ?"
"Did you never roast chestnuts, Pink 1"
"No. We never had a fireplace-with wood, I mean-in
"It's a good sort of thing to have in any house," said
Norton. "I believe I'll have 'em all through my house."
"Your house ?"
16 THE HOUSE IN TOWN.
"Yes. I shall have a house some day; and then you and
mamma will live with me."
Matilda could not see the reason for this inversion of
arrangements, and she was silent a little while; studying
it without success.
But what are you cutting these little pieces off for, Nor-
"Why, they'd fly if I didn't."
"What would fly ?"
"Why, the chestnuts, Pink ? They would fly all over."
"Out of the fire "
"What would make them fly 1 and how will that hinder
Norton sat back on the rug-he had been bending over to
screen his face from the heat of the blaze-and looked at
Matilda with very benevolent, laughing eyes.
"Pink, the chestnuts are green."
Aren't they ripe ?" said Matilda. They look so."
"Yes, yes, they are ripe; but what I mean is, that they
are fresh ; they are not dry. There is a great deal of water
"Water ?" said Matilda.
"Not standing in a pool, you know ; but in the juice, or
sap, or whatever you call it. Well, you know that fire makes
water boil ? "
"And when water turns into steam, you know it takes
"Yes, I know," said Matilda.
"Well, that's it. When steam begins to make in the
chestnut, the skin won't hold it ; and unless I cut a place
for it to get out, it will burst the chestnut. And when it
bursts, the chestnuts will generally jump."
"Yes, I understand," said Matilda.
"And wherever it jumps to, it will be apt to make a hole
in the carpet."
"But, Norton I should think if the steam made very
THE HOUSE IN TOWN. 17
fast, in a hot place, you know, it might burst the chestnut
in spite of the hole you have cut."
"Ay," said Norton.; "that does happen occasionally.
We'll be on the look-out."
Then he prepared a nice bed of ashes, laid the chestnuts
in carefully, and covered them up artistically, first with ashes
and then with coals. Matilda watched the process with great
interest, and a little wonder what Mr Richmond would think
of it. However, he had said that he was likely to be out for
some time, and it was now only half-past seven o'clock.
The fire burned gently, and the ash-bed of chestnuts looked
"What was it you said was jolly when you came and sat
down on the rug here, Norton ? "
I don't know."
"You said, 'Pink, it is very jolly '"
"The fire, I guess. Oh! I know !" said Norton. "I meant
this, Pink, that it is very capital we have got you now, and
you belong to us, and whatever we do, we shall do together.
I was thinking of that, I know, and of the New York house.
For an uneasy chestnut at this instant made a commotion
in the bed of ashes, and presently another leaped clean out.
But it was not roasted enough, Norton affirmed, and so was
What about the New York house ?" said Matilda then.
"Why, a good many things, you'll find," said Norton;
"and people too. You've got to know about it now. It's
my grandmother's house, to begin with. Look out! there's
Matilda wondered that she had never heard of this lady
before, though she did not say so.
"It is my grandmother's house," Norton repeated, as he
recovered the erring chestnut; "and she would like that we
should be there always ; but there is more to be said about
it. I have an aunt living there, an aunt that married a Jew;
her husband is dead, and now she makes her home with my
grandmother, she and her two children, my cousins."
18 THE HOUSE IN TOWN.
"Then you have cousins Matilda repeated.
"Two Jew cousins; yes."
"Are they Jews ?"
She isn't, my aunt isn't; but they are. Judith is a real
little Jewess, with eyes as black as a dewberry, and as bright;
and David-well, he's a Jew."
How old are they "
"About as old as we are. There's a chestnut, Pink! it
went over there."
That chestnut was captured, and kept and eaten; and
Matilda said she had never eaten anything so good in the
shape of a chestnut.
"Of course you haven't," said Norton. "That one wasn't
done, though. We must leave them a little while longer."
"And when you're in the city you all live together?',
Matilda went on.
"When we are in the city we all live together. And
grandmamma never will leave Aunt Judy, and Aunt Judy
never will come up here; so in the summer we don't all live
together. And I am glad of it."
Matilda wanted very much to ask why, but she did not.
Norton presently went on-
"It is all very well in the winter. But then I am going
to school all the while, and there isn't so much time for
things. And I like driving here better than in the park."
What is the park U Matilda inquired.
"You don't know !" exclaimed Norton. "That's good
fun. Promise me, Pink, that you will go with nobody but
me the first time. Promise me "
"Why, whom should I go with, Norton? Who would
take me "
"I don't know. Mamma might, or grandmother might,
or Aunt Judy. Promise, Pink."
Well, I will not, if I can help it," said Matilda. "But
how funny it is that I should be making you such a pro-
"Ay! isn't it ?" said Norton. "There will be a good
many such funny things, you'll find."
THE HOUSE IN TOWN. 19
"But how are these cousins of yours Jews, Norton, when
their mother is not a Jew ?"
Jewess," said Norton. "Why, because their father was,
-a Jew, I mean. He was a Spanish Jew; and my aunt
and cousins have lived in Spain till three years ago. How
should a boy with his name David Bartholomew be any-
thing but a Jew ?"
Bartholomew is English, isn't it ?"
"Yes, the name. Oh they are not Spaniards entirely;
only the family has lived out there for ever so long. They
have relations enough in New York. I wish they hadn't."
But how are they Jews, Norton ? Don't they believe-
what we believe ?" Matilda's voice sunk.
"What we believe!" repeated Norton. "Part of it, I
suppose. They are not like Hindoos or Chinese. But you
had better not talk to them just as you talked to Mr Rich-
"But, Norton--I must live so."
"Live how you like; they have got nothing to do with
your living. Now, Pink, I think we'll overhaul those chest-
nuts, if you've no objection."
It was very exciting, getting the roasted fruit out from
among the ashes and coals, burning their fingers, counting
the chestnuts, and eating them; and then Norton prepared
a second batch, that they might, as he said, have some to
give to Mr Richmond. Eating and cooking, a great deal of
talk went on all the while. Eight o'clock came, and nine;
and still not Mr Richmond. Norton went out to look at
the weather, as far as the piazza steps; and came in pow-
dered with snow. It was thickly falling, he said; so the
two children went to work again. It was. impossible to sit
there with the chestnuts and not eat them; so Norton
roasted a third quantity. Just as these were reclaimed
from the ashes, Mr Richmond came in. He looked tired.
"So you have kept my hearth warm for me," he said,
"and provided me supper. Thank you!"
"We have done no harm, sir, I hope," said Norton;
" though it was in your study."
20 THE HOUSE IN TOWN.
"My study was the very place," said Mr Richmond.
"You cannot get such a fire everywhere; and my fire does
nbt often have such pleasant use made of it. I shall miss
"How soon shall we be ordered away, sir?" Norton
"Your mother said to-morrow; but at the rate the snow
is falling, that will hardly be. It looks like a great storm,
or feels like it rather. It's impossible to see."
A great storm it proved the next morning. The snow was
falling very thick; it lay heaped on the branches of the
pines, and drifted into a great bank at the corner of the
piazza, and blocked up the window-sills. It was piled up
high on the house-steps, and had quite covered all signs of
path and road-way; the little sweep in front of the house
was levelled and hid; the track to the barn could not be
traced any longer. And still the snow came down, in gentle,
swift, stayless supply, fast piling up fresh beautiful feathers
of crystal on those that already settled soft upon all the
earth. So Matilda found things when she got up in the
morning. The air was dark with the snow-clouds, and yet
light with a beautiful light from the universal whiteness,
and the air was sweet with the pure sweetness of the falling
snow. Matilda hurried down. It was Sunday morning.
"There'll be no getting away to-day," said Norton, as
together they set the breakfastL L '' diness.
"Miss Redwood can't come home either," said Matilda.
She was privately glad. A snowy Sunday at the parsonage-
one more Sunday-would be pleasant.
You can't get to church either," Norton went on.
Why, Norton! This little bit of way? It isn't but half
a dozen steps."
"It is several half-dozen," said Norton; "and the snow
is all of a foot deep, and in places it has drifted, and there
isn't a sign of anybody coming to clear it away yet. I don't
believe there'll be twenty people in church, anyhow. It's
falling as thick as it can."
"Mr Ulshoeffer will clear it away in front of the church,"
THE HOUSE IN TOWN. 21
said Matilda. "Some people will come. There! there's
somebody at our back steps now."
Norton opened the kitchen-door to see if it was true; and
to his great astonishment found Mr Richmond, in company
with a large wooden shovel, clearing the snow from the
steps and kitchen-area.
"Good morning!" said the minister, from out of the
Good morning, sir. Mr Richmond! isn't there some-
body coming to do that for you, sir ?"
"I don't know who is to come," said the minister, plea-
santly. You had better shut the door and keep warm."
S"Tell him breakfast is ready, Norton," Matilda cried.
Well!" said Norton, shutting the door and coming in.
"Do you mean to say that Mr Richmond shovels his own
"His own snow repeated Matilda, with a little burst
of laughter. Which part of the snow is Mr Richmond's?"
"What lies on his own ground, I should say. Why don't
he have some one come to do it 7"
"I don't know," said Matilda; and she looked grave now.
"I don't know who there is to come to do it."
"There are people enough to do anything for money,"
said Norton. "Don't he have somebody come to do it ?"
"I don't know," said Matilda. "If he had, I do not
think he would do it himself."
Then he gets very shabby treatment," said Norton,
"that's all. I tell you, shovelling snow is work; and cold
work at that."
I suppose the people can't give great pay to their min-
ister," said Matilda.
"Then they can come and clear away the snow for him.
They have hands enough, if they haven't the cash. I won-
der if they let him do it for himself always ?"
"I don't know."
"Well, if I was a minister," said Norton, "which I am
glad I'm not, I'd have a church where people could give
me enough pay to keep my hands out of the snow!"
22 THE HOUSE IN TOWN.
"Hush !" said Matilda. "Breakfast is ready, and Mr
Richmond is coming in."
The little dining-room was more pleasant than ever that
morning. The white brightness that came in through the
snowy air seemed to make fire and warmth and breakfast
particularly cosy. And there was a hush and a purity and
a crisp frost in the air, filling that Sunday morning with
especial delights. But Mr Richmond ate his breakfast like
a man who had business on hand.
Norton thinks there will not be many people at church,
"There will be one," said Mr Richmond ; "and that he
may get there, I have a good deal of work yet to do."
More snow, sir ?" inquired Norton.
"All the way from here to the church porch."
"Won't somebody come to do it, sir, and save you the
"I can't tell," said the minister, laughing. "Nobody ever
Norton said nothing; but Matilda was very much pleased
that after breakfast he took a spade and joined Mr Richmond
in his work. Matilda never forgot that day. The snow
continued to fall, flickering irregularly through the pine
leaves and leaving a goodly portion of its stores gathered on
the branches and massing on the tufts of foliage. Elsewhere
the fall of the white flakes was steady and thick as the ad-
vance of an army of soldiers. No other resemblance between
the two things. This was all whiteness and peace and hush
and shelter for earth's needs. Matilda stood at the study
window and watched it come down; watched the two dark
figures working away in the deep snow to clear the path ;
watched to see the shovelfuls of snow flung right and left
with a will, and then to see the workers stop to take breath,
and lean upon their shovels and talk. Norton was getting
to know Mr Richmond; Matilda was glad of that. Then
Mr Ulshoeffer rang the old church bell, and she went to
make herself ready for church.
The storm continued, and there were few people out, as
THE HOUSE IN TOWN. 23
Norton had said. In the afternoon the Sunday-school had
a very small number, and the service did not last long.
And then Matilda sat in the hush, at the study window-
for Mr Richmond had been called out-and thought of the
change that had fallen on her life. The path to the church
was getting covered up again even already. Suddenly some
one came behind her and laid hands on her shoulders, and
Norton's voice demanded what she was doing.
"I was only looking and thinking."
"You're always at one or the other," said Norton, giving
the shoulders a little shake. "Both is too much at once."
"0 Norton! how can one help it ? It's so grand to think
that God is so rich and great, and can do such beautiful
What now ?" said Norton.
"What now! Why, the snow!"
"Oh !" said Norton, "I've seen snow before."
"But it's always just so beautiful. No, not always; for
it's a grand storm to-day. Just see how it comes down!
It is getting dusk already ; and every flake of it is just so
lovely and wonderful. Mr Richmond showed me some on
his hat once. I am so glad to know that God made it, and
there is no end to the beautiful things He can make. It's
covering your walk up again, Norton."
"It's very queer to hear you talk," said Norton.
"Queer? said Matilda.
"It's so queer, that you have no idea, Pink, how queer it
is. I don't know what you want."
"I know what I want," said Matilda. "I want to know
more of God's beautiful work. Mr Richmond says the
earth is full of it; and I think it would be nice to be seeing
it always; but I know so little."
"You'll learn," said Norton. "I wonder if mamma will
send you to school, Pink ? We must get home to-morrow.
We have stayed a terrible long time at the parsonage."
WHEN Matilda came down-stairs the next morning to get
breakfast, she found Miss Redwood in the kitchen. The
fire was going, the kitchen was warm; Miss Redwood was
preparing some potatoes for baking.
"Good morning !" said she. Here I am again. It does
seem funny to be washing the potatoes to put in the stove,
just as if folks hadn't been sick and dying, you may say,
and getting well, and all that, since I touched 'em last.
Well! life's a queer thing; and it don't go by the rule of
three, not by no means."
What rule does it go by ?" said Matilda, leaning on the
table, and looking up at the housekeeper.
"La! I don't know," said Miss Redwood. "I know what
I've been working' by all these weeks, pretty much; I kept
at my multiplication table; but I couldn't get no further
most days than the very beginning-' Once one is one.' I
tried hard to make it out two; but 'twas beyond me. I've
learned that much, anyhow."
"Didn't Mrs Laval help ?"
"She helped all she could, poor critter, till she was 'most
beat out. I declare I was sorry for her, next to the sick
ones. She did all she could. She turned in to cook; and
she didn't know no more about it than I know about talking'
any language beside my own. Not so much; for I kin tell
French when I hear it; but she didn't know boiling water."
"What can I do to help you, Miss Redwood ?" Matilda
asked, suddenly remembering the present.
"There ain't nothing' to do, child, 'cept what I'm doin'.
The breakfast table is sot. I guess you've had your hands
full, as well as the rest of us. But I declare you've kept
things pretty straight. I don't let the butter set in the
pantry, though; it goes down cellar when I'm to home."
THE HOUSE IN TOWN. 25
"That kitchen pantry is cold, Miss Redwood."
"It's too cold, child. Butter hadn't ought to be where it
kin freeze, or get freezing hard ; it takes the sweetness out of
it. You didn't know that. And the broom and pan I left
at the head of the coal-stairs; they ain't there now."
Matilda fetched them.
"The minister said you kept things in train as if you'd
been older," Miss Redwood went on. "I was always asking ;
and he made me feel pretty comfortable. He said he was."
"We have had a very nice time, Miss Redwood. We
hadn't the least trouble about anything."
"Trouble was our meat and drink down yonder," said
Miss Redwood. "I thought two o' them poor furriners
would surely give up ; but they didn't ; and it's over with,
praise the Lord! And I'm as glad to be home again as if
I had found a fortin. But I was glad to be there, too.
When a man-or a woman-knows she's in her place, she's
just in the pleasantest spot she kin get to; so I think. And
I knew I was in my place there. But dear, Mrs Laval
thinks your place is with her now; so she bid me tell you
to be ready."
"Well, some time along in the morning she will send the
carriage to bring you, she said."
Has Francis come back ?"
"Who's Francis ? "
"I mean the coachman."
"I don't know nobody's names," said Miss Redwood,
"'cept the men I took care of; and I guess I had my own
names for them. I couldn't pucker my mouth to call them
after Mrs Laval."
"Why, what did you call them ?" said Matilda. "I know
what their names were ; they were Jules and Pierre Failly.
What did you call them ?"
"It didn't make no odds," said Miss Redwood, so long
as they knew I was speaking to 'em and that they knew ;
'cause when I raised one man's head up, he knew I warn't
speaking to the other man. I called one of 'em Johnson,
26 THE HOUSE IN TOWN,
and otherr Peter. It did just as well. I dare say now,"
said Miss Redwood, with a bit of a smile on her face,
"they thought Johnson meant beef tea, and Peter meant a
spoonful of medicine. It did just as well. Come, dear; you
may go get the coffee-canister for me; for now I'm in a
hurry. There ain't coffee burned for breakfast."
It was Matilda's last breakfast at the parsonage. She
could have been sorry, only that she was so glad. After
breakfast she had her bag to pack ; and a little later the grey
ponies trotted round the sweep and drew up at the door.
Matilda had watched them turning in at the gate and com-
ing down the lane, stepping so gaily to the sound of their
bells; and they drew a dainty light sleigh covered with a
wealth of fine buffalo robes. The children bade good-
bye to Mr Richmond, and jumped in, and tucked the buf-
falo robes round them; the ponies shook their heads and
began to walk round the sweep again; then getting into
the straight line of the lane, away they went with a merry
pace, making the snow fly.
It seemed to Matilda that such a feeling of luxury had
never come over her as she felt then. The sleigh was so
easy, the seats were so roomy, the buffalo robes were so
soft and warm and elegant, and she was so happy. Norton
pulled one of the robes up so as almost to cover her; no
cold could get at her, for her feet were in another. Furs
over and under her, she had nothing to do but to look and
be whirled along over the smooth snow to the tune of the
sleigh bells. It was charming to look and see what the
snow had done with the world. Thick, thick mantles of it
lay upon the house roofs ; how could it all stay there ? The
trees were loaded, bending their heads and drooping their
branches under the weight which was almost too much for
them. The fences had a pretty dressing, like the thick white
frosting of a cake; the fields and gardens and roadway lay
hidden under the soft warm carpet that was spread every-
where. But the snow clouds were all gone, and the clearest
bright blue sky looked down through the white-laden tree
1 ~ I,
THE HOUSE IN TOWN. 27
"How much there is of it! said Matilda.
"What ?" said Norton.
"Why, I mean snow, Norton."
"Oh yes; there is apt to be a good deal of it," said
Norton, when it falls as hard as it can all one day and two
"But, Norton, to think that all that snow is just those
elegant little star feathers piled up All over the fields and
house roofs, a foot and a half thick, it is all those feathery
Well," said Norton, "what of it ?"
"Why, it is wonderful," said Matilda. It almost seems
like a waste, doesn't it ? only that couldn't be."
"A waste !" said Norton. "A waste of what ?"
"Why nobody sees or thinks that the street is covered
with such beautiful things-the street and the fields and
the houses; people only think it is snow, and that's all;
when it is just little wonders of beauty, of a great many
sorts too. It seems very strange."
Only to you," said Norton. "It'll be rich to show you
But why do you suppose it is so, Norton 1 I should like
to ask Mr Richmond."
Mr Richmond couldn't tell," said Norton.
"It must be that God is so rich," Matilda went on, rever-
ently. "So rich!" she repeated, looking at the piled-up
burden of snow along the house roofs of the street. But
then, Norton, He must care to have things beautiful."
"Pink!" exclaimed Norton, looking at his little companion
with an air half of amusement and half of something like
"Well, don't you think so ? Because nobody sees those
white feathers of frost piled up there, and these that the
horses are treading under feet. They do nobody any
"It does you good to know they are there," said Norton.
"That's true !" exclaimed Matilda. Oh! I'm very glad
to know about them; and I am very glad the snow is so
28 THE HOUSE IN TOWN.
wonderful; and I am glad to feel that God is so rich, and
that He has made things so beautiful."
There was something in this speech that jarred upon
Norton; something, though he could not have told what it
was, that seemed to separate Matilda from him ; there was
a sweet, innocent kind of appropriation which he could not
share; it told of relations in which Matilda stood and to
which he was a stranger. Norton liked nothing that seemed
like division between them; but he did not find anything
just then to say, and remained silent ; while Matilda rode
along in a kind of glorious vision that was half heavenly
and half earthly. That was this snowy morning to her.
Covered up warm in the furs of the sleigh, she leaned back
and used her eyes, rejoicing in the white brilliance of the
earth and the sunny blue of the heaven, and finding strange
food for joy in them, or what appears strange to those who
do not know it. The sleigh rushed along, past houses and
shops, and the familiar signs hung out along the street; then
reaching the corner, whirled round to the left. Matilda's
home, until now, had always lain the other way. She turned
her head and looked back up the street.
"What is it ?" Norton asked.
"Nothing-except that I am so glad not to be going that
"No," said Norton. "Not that way any more. We have
got you, Pink."
"I don't understand it," said Matilda. "It makes me
dizzy when I think of it."
"Here we are cried Norton, as the horses wheeled in
through the iron gate. It's all snow, Pink ; it will be too
late to plant our tulips and hyacinths."
But even that was forgotten, as the sleigh stopped, and
Norton helped Matilda out from under the furs, and she re-
alised that she had come home. Home yes, when her feet
stepped upon the marble pavement of the hall she said to
herself that this was home. It was very strange. But Mrs
Laval's warm arms were not strange; they were easy to un-
derstand; she would hardly let Matilda out of them, and
THE HOUSE IN TOWN. 29
kissed her and kissed her. The kisses were instead of words;
they said that Matilda had come home.
Run up now, dear, to your room," she said at last, "and
get your wraps off. I have somebody here to see me on busi-
ness; but I will come to you by and by."
Dismissed with more kisses, Matilda went up the stairs
like one in a dream. Sharp and snowy as the world was
without, here, inside the hall-door, it was an atmosphere of
summer. Soft warm air was around her as she mounted the
stairs. In Mrs Laval's room a wood-fire was burning; in her
own, oh, joy there was a little coal-fire in the grate, all
bright and blazing. Matilda slowly drew off her things and
looked around her. The pretty green furniture with the
rosebuds painted on it, this was her own now; a warm car-
pet covered the mat; the bed with its luxurious belong-
ings was something she had not now to say good-bye to;
the time of parting had not come after all, would never
come as long as she lived. Slowly Matilda pulled off hood
and gloves and moccasins, and went to the window. It was
her own window The hills and the country in view from
it were hers to look at whenever she pleased. Mrs Candy's
bell could not sound there to break in upon anything. The
child was so happy that she was almost afraid ; it seemed too
good to be really true and lasting. Gradually, as she stood
there by the window, looking at what seemed to her "the trea-
sures of the snow," it came to her mind what she had been
thinking about that; the myriads of wonderfully fashioned,
exquisite crystal stars, for every one of which God took care.
Then she remembered, The hairs of your head are all num-
bered ;" and if so, of course no event that happened to any
of God's children could be without meaning or carelessly
sent. And also, if He was so rich in the beauty and perfect-
ness of the snow supply for the earth, He was rich toward
His children too, and would and could give them what were
the best things for them. But then came the question, if
He had brought a child like her into these new circum-
stances, into such a new home, what did He mean her to do
with it ? what use should she make of it ? what effect was
30 THE HOUSE IN TOWN.
it intended to have upon her and upon her life? This
seemed a very great question to Matilda. She softly shut
her door and took out her Bible and kneeled down beside
it. She would study and pray till she found out.
It happened well that Mrs Laval's man of business kept
her a good while. All that while Matilda kept up her study
and search. Nevertheless she was puzzled. It was a ques-
tion too large for her. All she could make out amounted to
this, that she must be careful not to forget whose child she
was ; that before Mrs Laval she owed love and obedience to
her Saviour ; that she must be on the watch for opportu-
nities; and not allow her new circumstances to distract or
divert her from them, or make her unfitted for them when
"I think I must watch," was Matilda's conclusion. "I
might forget. Norton will want me to do things, ard Mrs
Laval will want me to do other things,-perhaps other people
yet. If I keep to Mr Richmond's rule-" Whether ye eat or
drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the Lord Jesus,"-I
shall be sure to be right, and He will teach me."
Some very earnest prayer ended in this conclusion. Then
the question, came up in Matilda's mind, what opportunities
were likely to spring out of her new changed circumstances?
She could not tell; she found she could do nothing with
that question ; she could only leave it, and watch, and
She opened her door then, to be ready for Mrs Laval's
coming; and presently the soft step and gentle rustle of
drapery reminded Matilda anew that she had done for ever
with Mrs Candy's plump footfall and buckram skirts.
"My darling," said Mrs Laval, "you have been all this
time alone." She took Matilda in her arms and sat down
with her, looking at her as one examines a new precious.
"You smile, as if being alone was nothing very dreadful;'
she went on.
I don't think it is," said Matilda.
"I do But you and I will not be alone any more, darling,
THE HOUSE IN TOWN. 31
will we ? Norton is a boy; he must go and come; but you
are my own-my little daughter !-yes, now and always."
She clasped Matilda in her arms, and kissed her with lips
that trembled very much; trembled so much that Matilda
was afraid she would break into a passion of tears again;
but that was restrained. After a little she sat back, and
stroking Matilda's hair from her brow, asked softly-
"And what do you say to it, Matilda ?"
Matilda tried to find words and could not, trembled,
was very near crying for her own part; finally answered in
the only way. In her turn she threw her arms round Mrs
Laval's neck; in her turn kissed cheeks and lips, giving
herself up for the first time to the feeling of the new relation-
ship between them. The lady did not let her go, but sat
still with her arms locked around Matilda and Matilda's
head in her neck, and both of them motionless for a good
"Will you call me mamma some day ?" she whispered.
"Not now ;-when you feel like it. I do not ask it till
you feel like it."
"Yes," Matilda whispered in answer.
Presently Mrs Laval began to tell her about the ship-fever,
and the nursing, and Miss Redwood ; and how she and Miss
Redwood had been alone with everything to do. Then she
wanted to hear how Matilda had spent the weeks at the
parsonage; and she was very much amused.
"I believe I'11 get you to teach me some day," she said.
"It's bad to be so helpless. But I have learned something in
these weeks. Now, darling, is there anything you would like,
that I can give you ? anything that would be a pleasure to
you ? Speak and tell me before we go down to lunch."
The colour started into Matilda's face.
If I could," she said,-" I would like, if you liked it,-if
Norton could go with me again,-I would like very much,
to go and see Maria."
"Maria !" said Mrs Laval-" at Poughkeepsie ? Certainly.
You shall go-let me see, this is Monday,-Norton shall
take you Thursday. You must try and find something
32 THE HOUSE IN TOWN.
to take to Maria that she would like. What would she
Mrs Laval was drawing out her purse. Matilda, in a flush
of delight, could not think what Maria would like; so Mrs
Laval gave her five dollars, and bade her come to her for
more if she needed it.
Five dollars to buy Maria a present Matilda went down
to luncheon with her head and her heart so full that she
could hardly eat. What should the present be ? and what
a beginning of beautiful and delightful things was this!
She was as still as a mouse, and ate about as much. Mrs
Laval and Norton were full of business.
"How soon do we go to town, mamma i"
As soon as possible You ought to be going to school.
But-what day is to-day?"
No, no; I mean what day of the month. It is the mid-
dle of November, and past. I can't go till the beginning of
Soon enough," said Norton. Mamma, is Pink to go to
Mrs Laval looked at Matilda, smiled, but made no
Mamma, let me teach her."
You ?" said Mrs Laval. We will see."
"There's another thing, mamma. Is she to have an
How much, mamma ?"
"As much as you have."
"Then she'll be rich," said Norton. "She hasn't got
boots to buy. My boots eat up my money."
"I am afraid Matilda's boots will be quite as troublesome
to her. Don't you think she will want boots ?"
Girls' boots don't cost so much, do they 2"
"It depends on where you get them."
Mamma, Pink will not get her boots where you get yours,
unless you give her the direction very carefully. She will
THE HOUSE IN TOWN. 33
think she must save the money for Lilac Lane. You must
take care of her, mamma, or she will think she ought to
take a whole district on her hands, and a special block of
Mrs Laval again looked fondly at Matilda, and put a deli-
cate bit on her plate, observing that she was not eating any-
You are to take her to Poughkeepsie Thursday, Norton,
to see her sister."
That's jolly said Norton. "I want to be in Pough-
keepsie to see about some business of my own. We'll go to
Blodgett's, Pink, and choose the hyacinths and tulips for
You had a great deal better go to Vick, at Rochester,"
said Mrs Laval. You can depend upon what he gives you.
I have not found Blodgett so careful."
"I should like to go to Mr Vick's very much; but Roch-
ester is rather too far off," said Norton.
"You can write, you foolish boy."
"Well," said Norton, "I believe that will be best. We
cannot put the bulbs in now, unless we have a great stroke
of good luck and there comes a soft bit of weather. I'll
write to Vick. But we'll go to Blodgett's and get a few
just for house blooming. Wouldn't you like that, Pink? "
Matilda liked it so much that she found no words to ex-
press herself. Norton and his mother both laughed at her.
After dinner Mrs Laval went with Matilda up to her room,
and looked over her whole wardrobe. Most of the things
which belonged to it Mrs Laval threw aside-Matilda's old
calico dresses and several of the others, and her old stockings
and pocket handkerchiefs; and told Matilda she might give
them away. New linen, she said, Matilda should have, as
soon as she could get it made; meanwhile some new things
were provided already. She bade Matilda take a bath; and
then she had her own maid come in to arrange her hair and
dress her. There was not much to be done with Matilda's
hair; it was in short wavy locks all over her head; but the
maid brushed it till Matilda thought she would never have
34 THE HOUSE IN TOWN.
done. And then she was dressed in a new dark brown merino,
made short, and bound with a wide ribbon sash ; and new
stockings were put on her that were gartered above her
knees; and Matilda felt at once very nice and very funny.
But when it was done, Mrs Laval took her in her arms and
half smothered her with caresses.
We will get everything put in order as soon as we get
to New York," she said ; "my rosebud my pink as Norton
calls you ; my Daphne blossom "
"What is that, ma'am ?" said Matilda, laughing.
"Daphne ? you shall have a plant of it, and then you will
know. It is something very sweet, and yet very modest.
It never calls people to come and look at it."
She had Matilda on her lap, and she stroked her hair,
putting it back from her brow; took her face in both hands
and looked at it and kissed it ; played with her hands ;
passed her fingers over the new stockings to see how they
fitted ; tried the garters to see if they were too tight. Ma-
tilda felt the touch of motherly hands again, like no other
hands. It filled her with a warm gladness and sorrow
both together ; but it bound her to Mrs Laval. She threw
both arms at last around her neck, and they sat so, wrapped
up in each other.
"You must go and call upon your aunt, Matilda," Mrs
Laval said, after a long silence.
"Must I? I suppose I must," said Matilda.
Certainly; and the sooner you do it, the more graceful
it will be. I have been to see her, so it is only necessary
for you. It is a proper mark of respect."
"I will go to-morrow ; shall I ?"
"Yes ; go to-morrow. Now Norton spoke about an
allowance. Would you like it? "
"I don't know what it is, ma'am."
"I give Norton-that is,I allow, him-five dollars a month;
fifteen dollars a quarter. Out of that lie must provide him-
self with boots and shoes and gloves; the rest is for what-
ever he wants, fish-hooks or hyacinths, as the case may be.
I shall give you the same, Matilda ; five dollars every month.
THE HOUSE IN TOWN. 35
Then I shall expect you to be always nicely and properly
dressed in the matter of boots and shoes and gloves, without
my attending to it. You are young to be charged with so
much care of your dress, but I can trust you. With what is
left of your allowance you will do whatever you like ; nobody
will ask any questions about it. Do you like that, my dear "
Very much, ma'am."
"I thought so," said Mrs Laval, smiling. "Now I want
you to go with me and get something to put on your head
I have had a pelisse made for you that will do till we go to.
the city and can find something better. This can be then
for second-best. Put it on, dear, and be ready; the carriage
will be at the door in a moment now."
Wondering, Matilda put on the pelisse. She had never
had anything so nice in her life. It was of some thick
pretty silver-grey cloth, lined and wadded, and delicately
trimmed with silk. Then she went off with Mrs Laval in
the carriage, and was fitted with a warm little hat. Coming
home towards evening, at the close of this eventful day,
Matilda felt as if she hardly knew herself. To lay off her
coat and hat in such a warm, cheery little room, where the
fire in the grate bade her such a kind welcome; to come
down to the drawing-room, where another fire shown and
glowed on thick rugs and warm-coloured carpets and soft
cushions and elegant furniture ; and to know that she was at
home amid all these things and comforts ; it was bewilder-
ing. She sat down on a low cushion on the rug, and tried
to collect her wits. What was it she had resolved to do 1-
to watch for duty, and to do everything to the Lord Jesus.
Then so should her enjoyment of all this be. But Matilda
felt as if she were taken off her feet. So she went to pray-
ing, for she could not think. She had only two minutes for
that, before Norton rushed in and came to her side with
Vick's catalogue; and the whole rest of the evening was
one delicious whirl through the wonders of a flower garden,
and the beauties of various coloured hyacinths and tulips in
The next day Matilda had two great matters on her heart-
36 THE HOUSE IN TOWN.
the present for Maria, and the visit to her aunt. She re-
solved to do the disagreeable business first. So she marched
off to Mrs Candy's in the middle of the morning, when she
knew they were at leisure; and was ordered up into her
aunt's room, where she and Clarissa were at work after the
old fashion. The room had a dismal oppressive air to
Matilda's refreshed vision. Her aunt and cousin received
each a kiss from her, rather than gave it.
"Well, Matilda," said Mrs Candy, how do you do 1"
This Matilda knew was an introduction to something
following. The answer was a matter of form.
"You've changed hands; how do you like it?" Mrs
Candy went on.
It would seem ungracious to say she liked it, so Matilda
"I suppose things are somewhat different at Mrs Laval's
from what you found them here ? "
"Yes, ma'am; they are different."
Have Mrs Laval's servants got quite well ?"
"Yes, ma'am, quite well."
"How many of them are there ?"
"There are the mother and father, and two daughters,
and the brother of the father, I believe."
"And does Mrs Laval keep other servants besides those 7"
Oh yes Those are the farm-servants, partly. But one
of them cooks, and one of the daughters is laundry-maid,
and the other is the dairy-woman."
"And how many more ?" asked Clarissa.
"There are the waiter and coachman, you know, and
the chambermaid, and Mrs Laval's own maid, and the
"A sempstress constantly on hand ? said Mrs Candy.
I believe so. I have always seen her there. She seems
to belong there."
"Well, you find some difference between a house with a
dozen servants, and one where they keep only one, don't
It is different," said Matilda, not knowing how to answer.
THE HOUSE IN TOWN. 37
"What do you do in that house with a dozen servants ?"
"I don't know, ma'am; I haven't done anything yet."
How did you get among the sick people in the first place ?
how came that ? It was very careless !"
"Nobody knew what was the matter with them, Aunt
Candy. Mrs Laval was gone to town, and I went to take
some beef-tea that the doctor had ordered."
"Doctor Bird ?"
"Doctor Bird ought to have known better. He ought to
have taken better care," said Clarissa.
"It is easy to say that afterwards," remarked Mrs Candy.
"How came Mrs Laval not to be there herself ? "
She was there. She was only gone to New York to get
help; for allthe servants had run away."
Then they knew what was the matter ?" said Clarissa.
"I don't know," said Matilda. They seemed frightened
or jealous. They all went off."
"Like them!" said Mrs Candy. "Who did the nursing at
"Mrs Laval and Miss Redwood."
"Who is Miss Redwood "
"She keeps house for Mr Richmond."
A perceptible shadow darkened the faces of both mother
and daughter. Matilda wished herself away ; but she could
not end her visit while it was yet so short; that would
"And so you have been wasting six weeks at the parsonage,
-doing absolutely nothing "
It had not been precisely that, but Matilda thought it was
best to be silent.
It seems to me you are not improving in politeness," Mrs
Candy remarked. "However, that is somebody else's affair
now. Are you going to school?"
"Not yet, ma'am."
"When are you going to begin?"
"I do not know. Not till we get to New York, I
38 THE HOUSE IN TOWN.
To New York Then you are going to New York ?"
"How soon ?" Clarissa inquired.
"Not till next month."
That is almost here," said Mrs Candy. Well, it would
have been a great deal better for you to have remained here
with me; but I am clear of the responsibility, that is one
thing. If there is one thing more thankless than another,
it is to have anything to do with children that are not your
own. You know how to darn stockings, at any rate, Matilda;
I have taught you that."
"And to mend lace," Clarissa added.
"Matilda may find the good of that yet. She may have
to earn her bread with doing it. Nothing is more likely."
"I hope not," said Clarissa.
"It is an absurd arrangement anyhow," Mrs Candy went
on. "Matilda at Mrs Laval's, and Anne and Letitia earning
their bread with something not a bit better than mending
lace. They will not like it very well."
"Why not, Aunt Candy ?" Matilda asked.
Wait and see if they do. Will they like it, do you think,
to see that you do not belong to them any more, and are part
and parcel of quite another family ? Will they like it, that
your business will be to forget them now ? See if they like it!"
"Why I shall not forget them at all!" cried Matilda;
"how could I and what makes you say so ?"
"You are beginning by forgetting your mother," said Mrs
Candy, with a significant glance at the silver-grey pelisse.
"Yes," said Clarissa, "I noticed the minute she came in.
How could Mrs Laval do so !"
"What!"said Matilda. "That isn't true at all, Aunt Candy."
"I see the signs," said Mrs Candy. "There is no need
to tell me what they mean. In this country it is considered
a mark of respect and a sign that we do not forget our
friends to wear a dress of remembrance."
"It reminds us of them, too," said Clarissa, "and we like
to be reminded of those we love."
"I do not want anything to remind me of her,"said Matilda;
and the little set of her head at the moment spoke volumes.
TIHE HOUSE IN TOWN. 39
"And besides, Aunt Candy and Clarissa, I did not wear mourn-
ing when I was here, except only when I went to church."
"That showed the respect," said Mrs Candy. "You can
see easily what Mrs Laval means by her dressing you out
in that style. Have you got a black dress under your
"Let us see what you have got," said Clarissa.
As Matilda did not move, Mrs Candy rose and went to
her and lifted up the folds of her pelisse so as to show the
"I thought so," she remarked, as she went back to her
Mrs Laval ought to be ashamed !" said her daughter.
Matilda had got by this time about as much as she could
bear. She rose up from her uneasy chair opposite Mrs
Oh! are you going ?" said that lady. "You do not care
to stay long with us."
"Not to-day," said little Matilda, with more dignity than
she knew, and with an air of the head and shoulders that
very much irritated Mrs Candy.
I'd cure you of that," she said, if I had you. I thought
I had cured you. You would not dare hold you head like
that, if you were living with me."
Now Matilda had not the least knowledge that her head
was held differently from usual. She said good-bye.
"Are you not going to kiss me," said her aunt. "You are
It cost an effort, but Matilda offered her cheek to Mrs
Candy and to Clarissa, and left them. She ran down the
stairs and out of the house. At the little gate she stood still.
What did it all mean ? Forgetting her mother ? Had she
done her memory an injury by putting on her brown frock
and her grey pelisse ? Was there any truth in all this flood
of disagreeable words, which seemed to have flowed over and
half drowned her ? Ought her dress to be black ? It had
not been when she lived with her aunt, except on particular
days and out of doors, as she had said. Was there any
40 THE HOUSE IN TOWN.
truth in all these charges ? Matilda's heart had suddenly
lost all its gaiety, and the struggle in her thoughts was
growing more and more unendurable every moment. A
confusion of doubts, questions, suspicions which she could
not at once see clearly enough to cast off, and sorrow, raged
and fought in her mind with indignant rejection and disbe-
lief of them. What should she do ? How could she tell what
was right ? Mr Richmond She would go straight to him.
And so she did, hurrying along Butternut Street like a
little vessel in a gale ; and she was just that, only the gale
was in her own mind. It drove her on, and she rushed
into the parsonage, excited by her own quick movements as
well as by her thoughts. Miss Redwood was busy in the
"What's the matter?" she exclaimed, for Matilda had
gone in that way.
I want to see Mr Richmond."
"Well, he's in there. La child, we keep open doors at
the parsonage; there ain't no need that you should break
'em in by running against 'em. Take it easy, whatever there
is to take. The minister's in his study. But his dinner'll
be ready in a quarter of an hour, tell him."
Matilda went more quietly, and knocked at the study door.
She heard Come in."
"Mr Richmond, are you busy ?" she asked, standing still
inside of the study door. Shall I disturb you ?" She was
quiet enough now. But the tears were shining in Matilda's
eyes, and the eyes themselves were eager.
"Come here," said Mr Richmond, holding out his hand;
"I am not too busy, and your disturbing me is very welcome.
How do you do ?"
Matilda's answer was to clasp Mr Richmond's hand and
cover her face.
"What is the matter ?" he asked, softly, though a little
startled. "Nothing that we cannot set right, Tilly ?"
He drew his arm protectingly round her, and Matilda
presently looked up. 0 Mr Richmond she said, "I don't
know if anything is wrong; but I want to know."
THE HOUSE IN TOWN. 41
Well, we can find out. What is the question ?"
Mr Richmond, the question is, Ought I to wear black
things for mamma? "
The minister was much surprised.
What put this in your head, Tilly ?"
"Mrs Laval gave me some new dresses yesterday-these
you see, Mr Richmond; the frock is dark brown and the
coat is grey. Ought they to be black?"
"Why should they be black ?"
"I don't know, sir. People do wear black things when
they have lost friends."
"What for do they so?"
"I don't know, Mr Richmond; but people say it shows
respect-and that I do not show"-
Let us look at it I .. 11 said her friend. "How does
it show respect to a lost friend to put on a peculiar dress?"
"I don't know, sir ; because it's the custom, I suppose.
But I am not in black. Ought I to be ?"
"Wait; we will come to it. Black dresses are supposed
to be a sign of grief, are they not ? "
"I don't know, Mr Richmond; they said, of respect, and
to put one in mind."
"The grief that wants putting in mind is not a grief that
pays much real respect, I should think. Do not you think
so ?-tliat's one thing."
Matilda looked at him with eyes intent and pitifully full
of tears, just ready to run over, but eagerly watching his
"Then as to respect, black dresses must show respect, if
any way, by saying to the world that we remember and are
sorry. Now the fact is, Matilda, they do not say that at all.
They are worn quite as much by people who do not re-
member, and who are not sorry. They tell nothing about
the truth, except that some of those who wear them like to
be in the fashion, and some are afraid of what the world
But there is another question. When our friends have
left us and are happy with the Lord Jesus, as all His children
42 THE HOUSE IN TOWN.
are, is it a mark of respect to their memory that we should
cover our faces with crape, and wear gloomy drapery, and
shut up our shutters to keep the sunlight out of our rooms ?
Have we any right to stop the sunlight anywhere ? Wouldn't
it be better honour to our Christian friends who have gone
to be glad for them, and speak as if we were ; and let it be
seen that all the sorrow we have is on our own account, and
we do not mean to indulge that selfishly? We- do not
sorrow as those that have no hope; for we believe that them
which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him. There will be
a glorious meeting again, by and by, when Jesus comes;
then we and our dear ones who have loved Him will be to-
gether again, and all of us with the Lord."
"Then people ought not to wear black for mourning ?"
said Matilda, with a brightened but undecided face.
"I think myself it is a very unchristian fashion. It
is not according to the spirit of the early Christian times ;
for people then who had had friends slain by wild beasts,
and burned to death, for the truth of Jesus, gathered the
poor remains that were left and laid them to rest, with the
motto cut in the door of their resting-place,-' In peace in
"Did they? said Matilda.
"A very great mahy of them."
"Then wouldn't you wear mourning, AIr Richmond ?"
"I should not. I never have."
"Nor crape on your hat "
"Nor crape anywhere."
Then I don't care said Matilda.
"I do not think you need care."
But it is very disagreeable 1 continued Matilda.
"That people will say such things."
Mr Richmond smiled. You must try and learn to bear
that, Tilly. But it is not very difficult when you are sure
that you are in the right ?"
I think it is difficult to bear," said Matilda.
"The only question is, what is right ? Do you remember
THE HOUSE IN TOWN. 43
the fairy tale about the journey that a great many ladies
and gentlemen took to the top of a hill, to get certain
treasures that were there ?"
"The golden bird and the singing water !" said Matilda.
"Yes, I know. Do you know it, Mr Richmond ?"
"I heard you telling it to Norton."
"I didn't know that you heard said Matilda. "Well,
Mr Richmond, how could you remember ?"
"Well, if they looked round when they were going up
the hill, they lost all."
They were turned into stone. And there were all sorts
of noises in their ears, to make them look round."
The only way to get to the top was to stop their ears."
"Yes, Mr Richmond, I know, I understand. But what
golden bird and singing water are we going up-hill after 7"
Something better. We want the 'Well done, good and
faithful servant,'-do we not ? And if we would have that,
we must stop our ears against all sorts of voices that would
turn aside our eyes from what is at the top of the hill."
But, Mr Richmond, it is not wicked to wear mourning, is
"No ; I was thinking then of other things. But it is
very unlike the spirit of religion, when a friend has gone
home, to make a parade of gloom about it; very unlike the
truth of Christ."
Mr Richmond, I am very glad; and now I know what
is right, I am very much obliged to you. And Miss Redwood
said your dinner would be ready in a quarter of an hour. I
guess it is ready now."
Which was the fact; and Matilda ran home in a different
sort of gale now, and at luncheon was quite as light-hearted
IT was needful for Norton and Matilda, or they thought so,
to take the early train which left the station at half-past
seven o'clock. The next train would not be till near eleven;
and that, it was decided, would not do at all for their pur-
poses. Taking the early train, they would have to go with-
out breakfast ; but that was no matter ; they would get
breakfast at Poughkeepsie, and have so much the more fun.
The omnibus came for them a little after half-past six, and
they were ready ; Matilda with an important basket on her
arm, which Norton gallantly took charge of.
It was a delightful experience altogether. The omnibus
did not immediately take the road to the station ; there were
several other passengers to gather up, and they drove round
corners and stopped at houses in different streets of the vil-
lage. First they took in old Mr Kurtz; he was going to New
York for his business, Norton whispered to Matilda ; he had
a large basket and an old lady with him. Then the omnibus
went round into the street behind the parsonage, and received
Mr Schb'nflocken, the Lutheran minister, and from another
house another old lady with another basket. Two men got
in from the corner. Lastly the omnibus stopped before a
house near the baker's, and here they waited. The people
were not ready. There were two children missing from the
travelling party, it seemed. Inquiries and exclamations
were bandied about; the stage-driver knocked impatiently
and cried out to hurry. Matilda was very much afraid they
might miss the train. Never mind ; he knows his business,"
Norton remarked coolly. At last a man who had been in
quest, brought back the stray children from an opposite
lumber-yard, calling out that they were found; then there
were kisses and leave-takings, and "Good-bye, grandma !"
THE HOUSE IN TOWN. 45
and "Come back again "-and finally the mother put her
children into the omnibus, the first, the second, the third,
and the fourth ; then got in herself, and the vehicle lum-
bered on. The omnibus was crowded now; and the new-
comers had been eating a breakfast of fried cakes and fish,
pretty near the stove where it was cooked; for the smoke
of the fry had filled their clothes. Of course it filled the
omnibus also. This could be borne only a few minutes.
"Dear Norton," Matilda whispered, "can't you open this
window for me? I cannot breathe."
You'll catch cold," said Norton.
"No, I won't. Please do it is choking me."
Norton laughed, and opened the window, and Matilda,
putting her face close to the opening, was able to get a breath
of fresh air. Then she enjoyed herself again. The grey
dawn was brightening over the fields; the morning air was
brisk and frosty; and as soon as Matilda's lungs could play
freely again, so could her imagination. How pretty the
dusky clumps of trees were against the brightening sky; how
lovely that growing light in the east, which every moment
rose stronger and revealed more. The farm-houses they
passed looked as if they had not waked up yet; barns and
farmyards were waiting for the day's work to begin; a
waggoner or two, going slowly to the station, were all the
moving things they saw. The omnibus passed them, and
"Norton," said Matilda, suddenly, bringing her face round
from the window, "it's delicious to be up so early."
Unless you are obliged to take other people's breakfast
before you get your own," said Norton. He looked disgusted,
and Matilda could not help laughing in her turn.
"Put your nose to my window,-you can," she said. "The
air is as sweet as can be."
"Outside," grumbled Norton.
"Well, that is what I am getting," said Matilda. "Can't
you get some of it ?--poor Norton !"
What I don't understand," said Norton, "is how people
46 THE HOUSE IN TOWN.
At this point, the old woman with the basket got out,
where a cross-road branched off. Matilda was obliged to
move up into the vacated place, to make more room for the
others; and she lost her open window. However, the river
came in sight now; the end of the ride was near; and soon
she and Norton stood on the steps of the station-house.
I don't believe my coat will get over it all day," said the
latter. There ought to be two omnibuses."
The poor people cannot help it, Norton; they are not to
"Yes, they are," said Norton. "They might open their
windows and air their houses. They are not fit to be in a
carriage with clean people."
"I guess they don't know any better," said Matilda;
"and they were rather poor people, Norton."
"Well," said Norton, "that is what I say. There ought
to be a coach for them specially."
He went in to buy the tickets, and Matilda remained on
the steps, wondering a little why there should be poor
people in the world. Why could not all have open windows
and free air and sweet dresses ? Being poor, she knew, was
somehow at the bottom of it ; and why should there be such
differences ? And then, what was the duty of those better
off? "Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you,"
-that opened a wide field. Too big to be gone over just
now. Matilda was sure that she was in the right way so
far in going to give pleasure to Maria; and by the way
she would take all the pleasure she could herself. How
sweet it was now! The sun was up, and shining with bright
yellow light upon the hills of Rosendale and the opposite
shore. The river was all in lively motion under the breeze;
the ferryboat just coming in from Rondout; the sky over-
head clearing itself of some racks of grey vapour and getting
all blue. Could anything be more delicious? Now the
passengers came trooping over from the Lark, to get their
tickets; and presently came the rumble of the train. She
and Norton jumped into one of the cars, and then they
THE HOUSE. IN TOWN. 47
"I'm hungry," was Norton's first confidence in the cars.
"So am I, very," said Matilda. It will not take more
than an hour, will it, to go to Poughkeepsie ?"
"Not that," said Norton. "Then the very first thing will
be to go up to Smith's and get our breakfast."
"That's that restaurant ?"
"Yes ; a good one too."
"I never was in a restaurant in my life," said Matilda.
"We'll see how you like it, Pink; it's delightful that
you have never seen anything."
"You have got so much to see; and I want to know
what you will think of it all."
Matilda was almost too happy. So happy, that not a
sunbeam, nor a ripple on the water, nor a cloud in the sky,
but seemed to bring her more to be glad of. It was only
that her joy met these things and glanced back. So Norton
said. But Matilda thought it was something beside.
"Why, Norton, I am glad of those things themselves,'" she
"Of the waves on the river ?" said Norton.
"Yes, to be sure I am."
"Nonsense, Pink! What for ?"
"I don't know what for," said Matilda. "They are so
pretty. And they are so lively. And there is another thing,
Norton," she said, with a change of voice. "God made
"Do you like everything He has made ?" said Norton.
"I think I do."
Then you must like those poor people in the omnibus,
and poor people everywhere. Do they give you pleasure ?"
Matilda could not say that they did. She wished with all
her heart there were no such thing as poverty in the world.
She could not answer immediately. And before she could
answer the whistle blew.
"Is this Poughkeepsie ?"
"Yes, this is Poughkeepsie. Now we 'll have breakfast!
Look sharp, Pink !"
48 THE HOUSE IN TOWN.
In another minute the two were standing on the platform
of the station.
"Is this the place I" Matilda inquired, a little ruefully. She
saw, inside the glass-door, a large room with what seemed
like a shop counter running down the length of it; and on
this counter certainly eatables were set out; she could see
cups of tea or coffee, and biscuits, and pieces of pie. People
were crowding to this counter, and plates and cups seemed
to have a busy time.
"This is Poughkeepsie," said Norton. "You have been
here before. This our restaurant ? I should think not!
Not precisely. We have got to take a walk before we get to
it. Smith's is at the top of the street."
"I am glad; I am ready to walk;' said Matilda, joyously ;
and they set off at a pace which showed what sort of time their
spirits were keeping. Nevertheless, all the way, between
other things, Matilda was studying the problem of poverty
which Norton had presented to her. The walk was quite a
walk, and the footsteps were a little slower before the top
of the street" was reached. Why Norton called it so,
Matilda did not see. The street went on, far beyond; but
they turned aside round a corner, and presently were at the
place they wanted.
They entered a nice quiet room, somewhat large to be sure,
and with a number of little tables set out; but nobody at
any of them. Matilda and Norton went towards the back
of the room, where it took an angle, and they could be a
little more private. Here they took possession of one of the
tables. Norton set down his basket, and Matilda took off
her hat. Nothing, she thought, could possibly be any plea-
santer than this expedition in which they were engaged.
This was a rare experience, unparalleled.
"Now, what shall we have ?" said Norton.
What can we have ?" said Matilda.
"Everything ; that is, any common thing. You couldn't
get dishes of French make-ups, I suppose; and we don't
want them. I am just as hungry as a bear."
"And I am as hungry as a bearess."
THE HOUSE IN TOWN. 49
Norton went off into a great laugh. "You look so like it!"
he said. "But you might be as hungry as a bear; that don't
say anything against your lady-like character. Though I
always heard that she-bears were fiercer than the others,
when once they got their spirits up. O Pink Pink "--
He was interrupted by the waiter.
Now, Pink, we've got to be civilised, and say what we'll
have. You may have a cup of coffee."
Yes, I would like it, Norton."
And beefsteak ? or cold chicken We '11 have chicken.
I know you like it best."
It was nice of Norton; for he didn't.
"Buckwheats, Pink ?"
Yes. I like them," said Matilda.
"So do I, when they are good. And rolls, in case they
shouldn't be. And good syrup-Silver Drip, mind."
Norton gave his order, and the two sat waiting. Matilda
examined the place and its appointments. It was neat, if it
was very plain.
"It's a good place enough," said. Norton. The country
people come here in the middle of the day, when they have
driven in to Poughkeepsie to market and do shopping.
Then the place is busy and all alive ; now, you see, we have
got it to ourselves. But anyhow, they have always good
plain things here."
So the breakfast proved when it came. Matilda was very
much amused with the little coffee-pot, holding just enough
for two, and the cream pitcher to match. But there was
hot milk in plenty; and the cakes were feathery light, and
the cold fowl very good, and the rolls excellent. And
the two, Norton and Matilda, were very hungry. So much
exercise and so much business and pleasure together made
them sharp. Eating stopped talking a little. But the very
goodness of the breakfast made Matilda think only the more,
in the intervals, of that question Norton had given her; why
were there poor people, who could have nothing like this ?
"Shall we go to Blodgett's next? or will you see Maria
first ?" Norton asked.
50 THE HOUSE IN TOWN.
"Oh Maria first, Norton; and then we need not be hurried
about the plants."
"The roots," said Norton. Well, I'll see you there, and
then I have some other business to attend to. I'll come for
you about dinner-time; then we can go to Blodgett's after
dinner. You'll want a good deal of time with Maria, I sup-
So after breakfast the two went down the town again and
turned into the cross-street where Maria lived. At the door
of the humble-looking house, Norton left Matilda and went
off again. Yes, it was a plain small brick house, with
wooden steps and little windows. Matilda had the door
opened to her by Maria herself. She could not understand,
though she surely saw, the cloud which instantly covered a
flash of pleasure in Maria's face. The two went in, went up
the stairs to a little back-room, which was Maria's own. A
chill came over Matilda here. It was so different from her
room. A little close stove warmed it; the bed was covered
with a gay patchwork quilt which had seen its best days;
the chairs were but two, and those rush-bottomed. A
painted wooden chest of drawers stood under the tiny bit
of looking-glass; the washstand in the corner had but one
towel thrown over it, and that not clean; one or two of
Maria's dresses hung up against the wall. But a skirt of
rich blue silk lay across the bed, for contrast; and yards of
blue satin ribbon lay partly quilled on the skirt, partly
heaped on the patchwork quilt, and part had fallen on the
floor. So one life touched another life.
"Well!" said Maria, for Matilda did not immediately
begin what she had to say, "how came you to be here so
"We came down in the early train. I wanted to have a
good long time to talk to you; and the next train is so
"Who came with you ?"
"Oh Norton Norton Laval."
"Norton Laval! He came with you before. How came
Aunt Candy to let you come?"
THE HOUSE IN TOWN. 51
"She could not help it."
"No," said Maria, scornfully; "anything that Mrs Laval
wanted, she would say nothing against. She would go down
on her knees, if she could get into Mrs Laval's house. Did
Mrs Laval ask her to get you those new things ?"
"No. Mrs Laval"-
"How came she to do it, then?" interrupted Maria.
"They are just as handsome as they can be; and in the
fashion too. But she always liked you. I knew it. She
never gave me anything, but a faded silk neckerchief. She
is too mean"-
"Oh don't, Maria !" Matilda interrupted in her turn.
"Aunt Candy had nothing to do with these things; she
never gave me much either; she did not get these for me."
Who did, then ?" said Maria, opening her eyes.
Mrs Laval! How came she to do it ?"
"Yes, Maria, because-Maria, I have gone away from
"For a visit. I know. It has been a tremendously long
visit, I think."
"Not for a visit now. Maria, I am not to go back there
at all any more; I mean, I am not going back to Aunt
Candy. Mrs Laval has taken me to keep-to be her own
child. I am there now, for always."
"What ?" Maria exclaimed.
Mrs Laval has taken me for her own,-for her own child."
"She hasn't !" said Maria; and if the wish did not point
the expression, it was hard to tell what did. Matilda made
Mrs Laval has taken you? for her own child?" repeated
Maria. "Do you mean that? To be with her, just like hei
own daughter ? always ?"
Matilda bowed her head, and her eyes filled. She was so
"You aren't ever going to call her mamma? Don't you
do it, Matilda! See you don't. If you do, I'll not be your
sister any more. She shall not have that !"
52 THE HOUSE IN TOWN.
Matilda was silent still, utterly dismayed.
"Why don't you speak? What made her do that, any-
I don't know," said Matilda, in a trembling voice. She
had a little daughter once, and she took me"- Matilda's
eyes were glittering. She nearly broke down, but would not,
and in the resistance she made to the temptation, her head
took its peculiar airy turn upon her neck. Maria ought to
have known her well enough to understand it.
"Everything comes to you !" she exclaimed. "I wonder
why nothing comes to me There are you, set up now, you
think, above all your relations; you will not want to look
at us by and by ; I dare say you feel so now. And you are
dressed, and have dresses made for you, and you ride in a
carriage, and you have everything you want; and I here
make dresses for other people, and live anyhow I can; sew
and sew, from morning till night, and begin again as soon
as morning comes; and never a bit of pleasure or rest or
hope of it; and can't dress myself decently, except by the
hardest I don't know what I have done to deserve it !"
said Maria, furiously. "It has always been so. Mamma
loved you best, and Aunt Candy treated you best,-she didn't
love anybody;-and now strangers have taken you up; and
nobody cares for me at all!"
Here Maria completed her part of the harmony by bursting
into tears. And being tears of extreme mortification and
envy, they were hard to stop. The fountain was large. Ma-
tilda sat still, with her eyes glittering, and her head in the
position that with her was apt to mean disapproval, and
meant it now. But what could she say ?
"It's very hard! Maria sobbed at last. "It's very
"Maria," said her little sister, "does it make it any harder
for you because I am taken such good care of ?"
"Yes !" said Maria. "Why should good care be taken of
you any more than of me ? Of course it makes it harder."
There was nothing that it seemed wise to say; and Ma-
tilda-sometimes a wise little child in her way-waited in
THE HOUSE IN TOWN. 53
silence, though very much grieved. She began to think it
was hard for Maria, though the whole thing had got into a
puzzle with her. And she thought it was a little bit hard
for herself, that she should have taken such pains to prepare
a present for her sister, and meet such a reception when she
came to offer it.
"Just look what a place I live in !" sobbed Maria. "Not
a nice thing about it. And here I sit and sew and sew, to
make other people's things, from morning till night, and
longer. I had to sit up till ten o'clock last night, puckering
on that ribbon ; and I shall have to do it again to-night-
till twelve, very likely, because I have spent time talking to
you;-all that somebody else may be dressed and have a
But, Maria, what would you do if you hadn't this to do ?"
"I don't know, and I don't care I'd as lieve die as do
this. I should like to put those pieces of blue ribbon in
the stove, and never see them again "
"Isn't it pleasant work, Maria 1 I think it is pretty nice
work. It isn't hard."
"Isn't it!" said Maria. "How would you like to try
it? How would you like to exchange your room at Mrs
Laval's for this one? Haven't you got a nice room
Matilda answered yes.
"How would you like to exchange it for this one, and to
sit here making somebody's dress for a party, instead of rid-
ing about on the cars and going where you like, and seeing
everything, and doing what you've a mind to ? Nice ex-
change, wouldn't it be ? Don't you think you'd like to try
it 1 And I would come and see you and tell you how plea-
sant it is."
Matilda had nothing to say. Her eye glanced round
again at the items of Maria's surroundings: the worn in-
grain carpet; the rusty, dusty little stove ; the patchwork
counterpane, which the bright silk made to look so very
coarse ; and she could not but confess to herself that it
54 THE HOUSE IN TOWN.
would be a sore change to leave her pleasant home and easy
life and come here. But what then?
Maria, it isn't my fault," she said at last; "it is not my
doing at all. And I think this is a great deal better than liv-
ing with Aunt Candy; and I would a great deal rather do it."
I wouldn't," said Maria.
Matilda sat still and waited, her gaiety pretty well taken
down. She was very sorry for her sister, though she could
not approve her views of things. Neither did she know well
what to say to them. So she kept silence : until Maria
stopped sobbing, dried her eyes, washed her hands, and be-
gan to quill her blue trimming again.
What did you come to Poughkeepsie for to-day ?"
To see you; nothing else."
"I think it is time. You haven't been here for weeks,
and months, for aught I know."
"Because I wrote you why, Maria. There was sickness
at Briery Bank, and Norton and I were at the parsonage
ever so long. I couldn't come to see you then."
What have you got in that basket ?-your dinner ?"
Oh no! something that I wantedto showto you.- I wanted
to bring you something, Maria; and I did not know what
you would like ; and I thought about it and thought about
it all yesterday, and I didn't know. I wanted to bring you
something pretty; but I remembered when I was here be-
fore you said you wanted gloves and handkerchiefs so much;
and so I thought it was better to bring you those."
While Matilda was making this speech, she was slowly
taking out of her basket and unfolding her various bundles;
she had half a hope, and no more now, that Maria would
be pleased. Maria snatched the bundles, examined the
handkerchiefs, and counted them; then compared the gloves
with her hand, and laid them over it. Finally she put both
gloves and handkerchiefs on the bed beside her, and went
on sewing. She had not said one word about them.
"Are they right, Maria ? said her little sister. "They
are the right number, I know. Do you like the colours I
have chosen ?"
THE HOUSE IN TOWN. 55
"They are well enough," Maria answered.
Green and chocolate, I thought you liked," Matilda went
on; "and the dark brown I liked. So I chose those. Do
you like the handkerchiefs, Maria ?"
"I want them badly enough," said Maria. "Did you get
them at Cope's '"
"Yes, and I thought they were very nice. Are they ?"
"A child like you doesn't know much about buying such
things," said Maria, quilling and turning her blue ribbon
with great energy. "Yes, they'll do pretty well. What sort
of handkerchiefs have you got ? "
"Just my old ones. I haven't got any new ones."
"I should like to see those, when you get them. I sup-
pose they'll be worked, and have lace round the borders."
I shouldn't like it if they had," said Matilda.
"We'll see, when you get them. I wonder how many
things Anne and Letitia want, and can't get."
"I shall see them soon," said Matilda. "We are going to
New York for the winter."
"You are !" exclaimed Maria, again ruefully. Matilda
could not understand why. "But you won't see much of
Anne and Letty, I don't believe."
Perhaps 1 shall be going to school, and so not have much
chance. Where do they live, Maria ? I have forgotten."
You will forget again," said Maria.
"But tell me, please. I will put it down."
Number 316 Bolivar Street. Now how much wiser are
"Just so much," said Matilda, marking the number on a
bit of paper. I must know the name before I can find the
You won't go there much," said Maria again. "Might
just as well let it alone."
"Are the people here pleasant, Maria ? are they good to
live with ?"
They are not what you would call good."
"Are they pleasant ? "
"No," said Maria. "They are not at all pleasant. I don't
56 THE HOUSE IN TOWN.
care who hears me say it. All the woman cares for, is
to get as much work out of me as she can. That is how
There was no getting to a smooth track for conversation
with Maria. Begin where she would, Matilda found herself
directly plunged into something disagreeable. She gave it
up and sat still, watching the blue ribbon curling and twist-
ing in Maria's fingers, and wondering sadly anew why some
people should be rich and others poor.
"Aren't you going to take off your things and have dinner
with me ?" said Maria, glancing up from her trimming.
"I cannot do that very well; Norton is coming for me;
and I do not know how soon."
"I don't suppose I could give you anything you would
like to eat. Where will you get your dinner then ?"
"Somewhere with Norton."
"Then you didn't bring it with you ?"
Matilda did not feel that it would do to-day, to invite
Maria to go with them to the restaurant. Norton had said
nothing about it ; and in Maria's peculiar mood Matilda could
not tell how she might behave herself or what she would say.
Perhaps Maria expected it, but she could not help that. The
time was a silent one between the sisters, until the expected
knock at the house-door came. It was welcome, as well
as expected. Matilda got up, feeling relieved if she felt also
sorry; and after kissing Maria, she ran down-stairs and found
herself in the fresh open air, taking long breaths, like a per-
son that had been shut up in a close little stove-heated room-
which she had. And Norton's cheery voice was a delightful
contrast to Maria's dismal tones. With busy steps, the two
went up the street again to the restaurant. It was pretty
full of people now ; but Norton and Matilda found an un-
occupied table in a corner. There a good dinner was brought
them; and the two were soon equally happy in eating it and
in discussing their garden arrangements. After they had
dined, Norton ordered ice-cream.
Matilda was as fond of ice-cream as most children are who
THE HOUSE IN TOWN. 57
have very seldom seen it; but while she sat enjoying it she
began to think again why she should have it and Maria not
have it ? The question brought up the whole previous ques-
tion that had been troubling her, about the rich and the poor,
and quite gave a peculiar flavour to what she was tasting.
She lost some of Norton's talk about bulbs.
"Norton," she exclaimed at last, suddenly, "I have found
Found what ?" said Norton. "Not a blue tulip ?"
"No, not a blue tulip. I have found the answer to that
question you asked me, you know, in the cars."
I asked you five hundred and fifty questions in the cars,"
said Norton. "Which one ?"
"Just before we got to Poughkeepsie,-don't you re-
"No," said Norton, laughing ; "I don't, of course. What
was it, Pink ? The idea of remembering a question "
"Don't you remember, you asked me if I didn't like
poverty and poor people, for the same reason I liked other
But here Norton's amusement became quite unman-
"How should you like poverty and poor people for the
same reason you like other things, you delicious Pink? he
said. "How should you like those smoky coats in the
omnibus for the same reason that you like a white hyacinth
or a red tulip ? "
"That is what I was puzzling about, Norton. You don't
recollect. And I could not make it out, because I knew I
didn't enjoy poverty and poor things, and you said I ought."
"Excuse me," said Norton. "I never said you ought, in
the whole course of my rational existence since I have
No, no, Norton But, don't you know, I said I liked
everything, waves of the river and all, because God made
them; and you thought I ought to like poor people and
things for the same reason."
Oh, that !" said Norton. Well, why don't you "
58 THE HOUSE IN TOWN.
"That is what I could not tell, Norton, and I was puz-
zling to find out; and now I know."
Well, why "
"Because God did not make them, Norton."
Yes, He did. Doesn't He make everything "
"In one way He does, to be sure; but then, Norton, if
everybody did just right, there would be no poor people in
the world; so it is not something that God has made, but
something that comes because people won't do right."
"How said Norton.
"Why, Norton, you know yourself. If everybody was
good, and loved everybody else as well as himself, the people
who have more than enough would give to the people who
are in want, and there would not be uncomfortable poor
people anywhere. And that is what the Bible says : 'He that
hath two coats,'-don't you remember ? "
"No, I don't," said Norton. Most people have two
coats, that can afford it. What ought they to do ?"
The Bible says, 'Let him impart to him that hath none.'"
"But suppose I cannot get another," said Norton; "and
I want two for myself ? "
".But somebody else has not one suppose."
"I can very easily suppose it," said Norton. "As soon as
we get out of the cars in New York, I'll show you a case."
"Well, Norton, that is what I said. If everybody loved
those poor people, don't you see, they would have coats, and
whatever they need. It is because you and I and other
people don't love them enough."
"I don't love another boy well enough to give him my
overcoat," said Norton. But coats wouldn't make a great
many poor people respectable. Those children in the omni-
bus this morning had coats on, comfortable enough; the
trouble was, they were full of buckwheat-cake smoke."
Well, if people are not clean, that's their own fault," said
Matilda. "But those people this morning hadn't perhaps
any place to be in but their kitchen. They might not be
able to help it for want of another room and another fire."
Matilda was eager, but Norton was very much amused.
THE HOUSE IN TOWN. 59
He ordered some more ice cream and a charlotte. Matilda
ate what he gave her, but silently carried on her thoughts;
these she would have given to Maria, if she could; she was
having more than enough.
Moralising was at an end when she got to the gardener's
shop. The consultations and discussions which went on
then drove everything else out of her head. The matter in
hand was a winter garden for their home in New York.
"I'll have some auriculas this year," said Norton.. You
wouldn't know how to manage them, Pink. You must have
tulips and snowdrops; oh yes and crocuses. You can get
good crocuses here. And polyanthus narcissus you can
have. You will like that."
"But what will you have, Norton ?'
"Auriculas, that's one thing. And then, I think I'll
have some amaryllis roots-but I won't get those here. I'll
get tulips and hyacinths, Pink."
Shall we have room for so many ?"
Lots of room. There's my room has two south windows
-that's the good of being on a corner; and I don't know
exactly what your room will be, but I '11 get grandmother to
let us live on that side of the house anyhow. Nobody else
in the family cares about a south window, only you and
I Put up a dozen Van Tols, and a dozen of the hyacinths,
and three polyanthus narcissus, and a dozen crocuses, and
a half-dozen snowdrops."
"Will you plant them while we are in Shadywalk ?"
"Of course," said Norton, or else they'll be blossoming
too late, don't you see ?-unless we go to town very soon,
and in that case we'll wait and keep them."
The roots were paid for and ordered to be sent by express;
and at last Norton and Matilda took their journey to the
station-house to wait for the train. It was all a world of
delight to Matilda. She watched eagerly the gathering
people, the busy porters and idle hack-drivers, the expectant
table and waiters in the station restaurant ; every detail and
almost every person she saw had the charm of novelty or an
interest of some sort for her unwonted eyes. And then
60 THE HOUSE IN TOWN.
came the rumble of the train, the snort and the whistle;
and she was seated beside Norton in the car, with a place by
the window where she could still watch everything. The
daylight was dying along the western shore before they
reached the Shadywalk station. The hills and the river
seemed to Matilda like a piece of a beautiful vision, and all
the day had been like a dream.
IT was near dark by the time they got home, and Matilda
was tired. Tea and lights and rest were very pleasant ; and
after tea she sat down on a cushion by Mrs Laval's side,
while Norton told over the doings of the day.
"Which room will Matilda have, mamma, in New York "
"I don't know. Why are you anxious ?"
We want south windows for our plants."
"She shall have a south window," said Mrs Laval, fondly.
"And I have had a letter from your grandmother, Norton.
I think I shall go to town next week."
"Before December !" cried Norton. "Hurra that is
splendid. After we get into December, and I am going to
school, the days and the weeks get into such a progress that
they trip each other up, and I don't know where I am. And
there's Christmas. Mamma, don't send Pink to school!
Let me teach her."
"I don't think you know very well where you are now,"
said his mother, smiling. What will you do with your own
"Plenty of time," said Norton-"too much time, in fact.
Mamma, I don't think Pink would enjoy going to school."
We will see," Mrs Laval said. But there is something
else Pink would enjoy, I think. You have not got your
allowance yet, Matilda. Have you a purse, love, or a porte-
monnaie, or anything ?"
"Oh yes, ma'am Don't you remember, ma'am, you gave
me your pocket-book ? a beautiful red morocco one, with a
sweet smell ?"
"No," said Mrs Laval, laughing.
62 THE HOUSE IN TOWN.
"It was before the sickness-oh, long ago You gave it
to me, with money in it, for Lilac Lane."
"Is the money all gone ?"
"It is all gone," said Matilda; "for you remember, Mrs
Laval, Norton and I had a great many things to get for that
poor woman and her house. It took all the money."
You had enough ?"
"Oh yes, ma'am ; Norton helped."
"Well, then, you have a pocket-book ; that will serve to
hold your future supplies. I shall give you the same as I
give Norton, five dollars a month ; that is fifteen dollars a
quarter. Out of that you will provide yourself with boots
and shoes and gloves ; you may consult your own taste,
only you must be always nice in those respects. Here is
November's five dollars."
Mamma, November is half out," said Norton.
"Matilda has everything to get; she has to begin without
such a stock as you have on hand."
Mamma, you will give her besides for her Christmas
presents, won't you ?"
"Certainly; as I do you."
"How much will you give her, mamma? For I foresee
we shall have a great deal of work to attend to in New York
stores before Christmas; and Matilda will naturally want to
know how much she has to spend."
"She can think about it," said Mrs Laval, smiling. "You
do not want your Christmas money yet."
"We shall get into great trouble," said Norton, with a
mock serious face. "I foresee I shall have so much advis-
ing to do-and to take-that it lies like a weight on me. I
can't think how Pink will settle things in her mind. At
present she is under the impression that she must not keep
more than one pair of boots at a time."
"You want several, my darling," said Mrs Laval, "for
different uses and occasions. Don't you understand
"Yes, ma'am, I always did "--
Matilda would have explained, but Norton broke in-
THE HOUSE IN TOWN. 63
"She thinks two overcoats at once is extravagant, mamma;
I ought to give one'of them away."
Matilda wanted to say that Norton was laughing, and yet
what he said was partly true. She held her peace.
You do not really think that, my darling said Mrs
Laval, putting her arm round Matilda, and bending down
her face for a kiss. You do not think that, do you ?"
It was very difficult to tell Mrs Laval what she really did
think. Matilda hesitated.
"Don't you see," said the lady, laughing, and kissing her
again, "don't you see that Norton wants two overcoats just
as much as he wants one ? The one he wears every day to
school would not be fit to go to church in. Hey !" said Mrs
Laval, with a third kiss.
Mamma, there are reasons against all that ; you do not
understand," said Norton.
"It's very hard to say," Matilda spoke at length, rousing
herself: for her head had gone down on Mrs Laval's lap.
"May I say exactly what I do mean ?"
Certainly; and Norton shall not interrupt you."
"I don't want to interrupt her," said Norton, "It is as
good as a book."
What is it, my love ?"
Matilda slipped off her cushion, and kneeling on the rug,
with her hands still on Mrs Laval's lap, looked off into the
The Bible says," she began, and checked herself. The
Bible was not such authority there. "I was only thinking
-Ma'am, you know how many poor people there are in the
"She doesn't," said Norton.
"People that have no overcoats at all, nor undercoats
neither, some of them. I was thinking-if all the people
who have plenty, would give half to the people who have
nothing, there would be nobody cold or miserable; I mean
miserable from that."
Yes. there would, my darling," said Mrs Laval. "People
64 THE HOUSE IN TOWN.
who are idle and wicked, and won't work, and do not take
care of what they have, they would be poor if we were to
give them, not half but three quarters, of all we have. It
would be all gone in a week or two, or a month or two."
Matilda looked at Mrs Laval. "But the poor people are
not always wicked ? "
"Very often. Industrious and honest people need never
That would alter the case, Matilda thought. She sat back
on her cushion again, and laid her head down as before.
But then, what meant the Bible words, He that hath two
coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that
hath meat, let him do likewise ?" The Bible could not be
mistaken. Matilda was puzzled with the difficult question;
and presently the warm fire and her thoughts together were
too much for her. The eyelids drooped over her eyes ; she
was asleep. Mrs Laval made a sign to Norton to keep quiet.
Her own fingers touched tenderly the soft brown locks of
the head which lay on her lap, but too softly to disturb
"Mamuma," said Norton, softly, "isn't she a darling ? "
Hush said Mrs Laval. Don't wake her."
"She is perfectly fast asleep," said Norton. "She don't
sham sleeping any more than awake. Mamma, how will
grandmamma like her?"
She cannot help it," said Mrs Laval.
"Aunt Judy won't," said Norton. "But, mamma, she is
twenty times prettier than Judith Bartholomew."
She is as delicate as a little wood-flower," said Mrs Laval.
She has more stuff than that," said Norton; "she is stiff
enough to hold her head up ; but I'll tell you what she is
like. She is like my Penelbpe hyacinth."
Your Penelope hyacinth Mrs Laval echoed.
"Yes; you do not know it, mamma. It is not a white
hyacinth ; just off that ; the most delicate rose-pearl colour.
Now Judy is like a purple dahlia."
"Matilda is like nothing that is not sweet," said Mrs
Laval, fondly, looking at the little head.
THE HOUSE IN TOWN. 65
"Well, I am sure hyacinths are sweet," said Norton.
"Mamma, will you let me teach her ?"
"You will not have time."
"I will; I have plenty of time."
"What will you teach her ?"
"Everything I learn myself-if you say so."
"Perhaps she would like better to go to school."
She wouldn't," said Norton. She likes everything that
"Does she ?" said his mother, laughing. "That is dan-
gerous flattery, Norton."
"Her cheeks are just the colour of the inside of a pink
shell," said Norton. Mamma, there is not a thing ungrace-
ful about her."
"Not a thing," said Mrs Laval, not a movement."
"And she is so dainty," said Norton. "She is just as
particular as you are, mamma."
"Or as my boy is," said his mother, putting her other
hand upon his bright locks. "You are my own boy for
"Mamma," Norton went on, "I want you to give Pink to
Yes, I know what that means," said his mother. That
will do until you get to school and are going on skating
parties every other day; then you will like me to take her
off your hands."
Norton, however, did not defend himself. He kissed his
mother, and then stooped down and kissed the sleeping little
face on her lap.
"Mamma, she is so funny!" he said. "She actually
puzzles her head with questions about rich and poor people,
and the reforms there ought to be in the world ; and she
thinks she ought to begin the reforms, and I ought to carry
them on. It's too jolly."
"It will be a pleasure to see her pleasure in New York."
"Yes, won't it ? Mamma, nobody is to take her first to
the Central Park but me."
The questions about rich and poor were likely to give
66 THE HOUSE IN TOWN.
Matilda a good deal to do. She had been too sleepy that
night to think much of anything; but the next day, when
she was putting her five dollars in her pocket-book, they
"And this is only for November," she said to herself;
"and December's five dollars will be here directly; and
January will bring five more. Fifteen. How many shoes
and boots must I get for that time ?"
Careful examination showed that she had on hand one
pair of boots well worn, another pair which had seen service
as Sunday boots, but were quite neat yet, and one pair of
nice slippers. The worn boots would not do to go out with
Mrs Laval, nor anywhere in company with Matilda's new
pelisse. They will only do to give away," she concluded.
They would have seen a good deal of service in Shadywalk,
if she had remained there with her Aunt Candy; Mrs Laval
was another affair. One pair for everyday and one pair for
best, would do very well, Matilda thought. Then gloves ?
She must get some gloves. How many ?
She went to Mr Cope's that very afternoon, and considered
all the styles of gloves he had in his shop. Fine kid gloves,
she found, would eat up her money very fast. But she must
have them; nothing else could be allowed to go to church
or anywhere in company with Mrs Laval, and even Norton
wore nothing else when he was dressed. Matilda got two
pair, dark brown and dark green; colours that she knew.
would wear well, though her eyes longed for a pair of
beautiful tan colour. But besides these, Matilda laid in
some warm worsted gloves, which she purposed to wear in
ordinary or whenever she went out by herself. She had two
dollars left, when this was done. The boots, Mrs Laval had
told her, she was to get in New York; she could wait till
December for them.
And now everybody was in a hurry to get to New York.
The house was left in charge of the Swiss servants. The grey
ponies were sent down the river by the last boat from Ron-
dout. Matilda went to see Mrs Eldridge once during these
days of bustle and expectancy; and the visit revived all
THE HOUSE IN TOWN. 67
those questions in her mind about the use of money and the
duties of rich people. So much work a little money here
had done! It was not like the same place. It was a
humble place doubtless, and would always be that; but
there were cosy warmth instead of desolation, and comfort-
able tidiness and neatness instead of the wretched condition
of things which had made Matilda's heart sick once; and
the poor woman herself was decently dressed, and her face
had brightened up wonderfully. Matilda read to her, and
came away glad and thoughtful.
The farewell visit was paid at the parsonage the last thing;
and on the first of December the party set out to go to the
new world of the great city. It was a keen, cold winter's
day, the sky bleak with driving grey clouds, the river
rolling and turbulent under the same wind that sped them.
Sitting next the window in the car, where she liked to sit,
Matilda watched it all with untiring interest; and while she
watched it, she thought by turns of Mr Richmond's words
the evening before. Matilda had asked him how she should
be sure to know what was right to do always ? Mr Richmond
advised her to take for her motto those words-" Whatsoever
ye do, in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord
Jesus ;"-and to let every question be settled by them.
He said they would settle every one, if she was willing they
should. And now as Matilda sat musing, she believed they
would ; but a doubt came up,-if she lived by that rule, and
all around her without exception went by another rule, how
would they get along ? She was obliged to leave it; she
could not tell; only the doubt came up.
SIt seemed a long way to New York. After Poughkeepsie
had been some time left behind, Matilda began to think it
was time to hear about the end of the journey; but Nor-
ton told her they were only in the Highlands. Matilda
watched the changing shores, brown and cold-looking, till
the hills were left behind, and the river took a look she was
more accustomed to. Still Norton only laughed at her, when
she appealed to him ; they were not near New York, he said ;
it was Haverstraw Bay. It seemed to take a great while to
68' THE HOUSE IN TOWN.
pass that bay and Tappan Sea. Then Norton pointed out
to her the high straight line of shore on the opposite side of
the river. Those are the Palisades, Pink," he said; and
when you see the Palisades come to an end, then New York
is not far off."
But it seemed as if the Palisades would never come to an
end, in Matilda's tired fancy. She was weary of the cars by
this time, and eager for the sight of the new strange place
where her life was to be for so long. And the cars sped on
swiftly, and still the straight line of the Palisades stretched
on too. At last, at last, that straight line showed signs of
Yes," said Norton, to whom Matilda pointed this out,-
" we'll soon be in now, Pink."
Matilda roused up, to use her eyes with fresh vigilance.
She noticed one or two places where carts and men were
busy, seemingly, with the endeavour to fill up the North
river; at least they were carrying out loads of earth and
dumping it into the water. She was tired of talking by this
time, and waited to ask an explanation till the roar of the
car-wheels should be out of her ears. They came to scat-
tered buildings ; then the buildings seemed less scattered;
then the train slackened its wild rate of rushing on, and
Matilda could better see what she was passing. They were in
a broad street at last, broader than any street in Shadywalk.
But it was dismal! Was this New York ? Matilda had
never seen such forlorn women and children on the side-
walks at home ; nor ever so much business going on there.
Everybody was busy, except one or two women lounging in
a doorway; carts and builders and hurried passers-by;
and shops and markets and grocery stores in amazing num-
bers and succession, but with a sort of forlornness about
them. Matilda thought she would not like to have to eat
the vegetables or the meat she saw displayed there.
Then came the slow stopping of the cars ; and the passen-
gers turned out into the long shed of the station-house.
Here Norton left them, to go and find the carriage; while
Matilda lost herself in wonder at the scene. So many people
THE HOUSE IN TOWN. 69
hurrying off, meeting their friends, hastening by in groups
and pairs, and getting packed into little crowds ; such num-
bers of coachmen striving for customers at the doors, with
their calls of Carriage, sir ?" Carriage, ma'am ? patter-
ing like hail. It was wonderful, and very amusing. If this
was only the station-house of the railway, and the coming
in of one train, Matilda thought New York must be a very
large place indeed. Presently Norton came back and beck-
oned them out, through one of those clusters of clamorous
hackney coachmen, and Matilda found herself bestowed in
the most luxurious equipage she had ever seen in her life.
Surely it was like nothing but the appointments of fairy-
land, this carriage. Matilda sank in among the springs as
if they had been an arrangement of feathers ; and the cover-
ing of the soft cushions was nothing worse than satin, of
dark crimson hue. Nothing but very handsome dresses
could go in such a carriage, she reflected; she would have
to buy an extremely neat pair of boots to go with the dresses
or the carriage either. It was Mrs Lloyd's carriage; and
Mrs Lloyd was Mrs Laval's mother.
The carriage was the first thing that took M ,ibl.i, atten-
tion; but after that she fell to an eager inspection of the
houses and streets they were passing through. These changed
rapidly, she found. The streets grew broad, the houses
grew high; groceries and shops were seldomer to be seen,
and were of much better air; markets disappeared ; carmen
and carts grew less frequent; until at last all these objec-
tionable things seemed to be left behind, and the carriage
drew up before a door which looked upon nothing that was
not stately. Up and down, as far as Matilda could see, the
street was clean and splendid. She could see this in one
glance, almost without looking, as she got out of the carriage
before Norton hurried her in.
She felt strange, and curious; not afraid; she knew the
sheltering arms of her friends would protect her. It was a
doubtful feeling, though, with which she stepped on the
marble floor of the hall and saw the group which were ga-
thered round Mrs Laval. What struck Matilda at first was
70 THE HOUSE IN TOWN.
the beautiful hall, or room she would have called it, though
the stairs went up from one side ; its soft warm atmosphere ;
the rustle of silks and gleam of colours, and the gentle bub-
bling up of voices all round her. But she stood on the edge
of the group. Soon she could make more detailed observa-
That stately lady in black silk and lace shawl, she was
Mrs Laval's mother; she heard Mrs Laval call her so. Very
stately in figure, and movement too; a person accustomed
to command and have her own way, Matilda instinctively
felt. Now she had her arms round Norton; she was certainly
very fond of him. The lady with lace in her gleaming hair,
and jewels at her breast, and the dress of crimson satin falling
in rich folds all about her, sweeping the marble, that must
be Mrs Laval's sister. She looked like a person who did not
do anything, and had not anything she need do, like Mrs
Laval. Then this girl of about her own age, with a very
bright mischievous face and a dress of sky-blue, Matilda
knew who she must be; would they like each other ? she
questioned. And then she had no more time for silent
observations; Norton called upon her, and pulled her for-
ward into the group.
"Grandmamma, you have not seen her," he cried; "you
have not seen one of us. This is mammq's pet, and my-
darling." It was evident the boy's thought was of daughter"
and sister," but that a tender feeling stopped his tongue.
Mrs Lloyd looked at Matilda.
"I have heard of her," she said.
"Yes, but you must kiss her. She is one of us."
"She is mine," said Mrs Laval meaningly, putting both
arms around Matilda and drawing her to her mother.
The stately lady stooped and kissed the child, evidently
because she was thus asked.
"Grandmamma, she is to have half my place in your heart,"
" Will you give it up to her ?" Mrs Lloyd asked.
It is just as good as my having it," said Norton.
Perhaps he would have presented Matilda then to his
THE HOUSE IN TOWN. 71
aunt, but that lady had turned off into the drawing-room;
and the travellers mounted the stairs with Mrs Lloyd to see
their apartments and to prepare for dinner. The ladies went
into a large room opening from the upper hall; Norton and
the girl Matilda had noticed went bounding up the second
flight of stairs.
Mrs Laval lay down on a couch, and said she would have
a cup of tea before dressing. While she took it, Mrs Lloyd
sat beside her and the two talked very busily. Matilda, left
to herself, put off her coat and hat and sat down at the other
side of the fire, for a fire was burning in, the grate, and pon-
dered the situation. The house was like a palace in a fairy
tale surely, she thought. Her eyes were dazzled with the
glimmer from gildings and mirrors, and lamps hanging from
the ceilings. Her foot fell on soft carpets. The hangings
of the bed were of blue silk. The couches were covered
with rich worsted work. Pictures made the walls dainty.
Beautiful things which she could not examine yet stood on
the various tables. It immediately pressed on Matilda's
attention, that to be of a piece with all this elegance, and not
out of place among the people inhabiting there, she had
need to be very elegant herself. The best dress in her whole
little stock was the brown merino she had worn to travel in.
She had thought it very elegant in Shadywalk; but how
did it look alongside of Miss Judy's blue silk ? Matilda
had nothing better, at any rate. She glanced down at her
boots, to see how they would do. They were her best Sun-
day boots. They were neat, she concluded. They wanted
a little brushing from dust; then they would do pretty well.
But she did not think they were elegant. The soles of them
were rather too thick for that. At this point her atten-
tion was drawn to what was saying at the other side of the
"Do the children dine with us ?"
"Not in ordinary ?"
"It is bad for the boys-puts them out. One o'clock
suits them a great deal better. And six is a poor hour for
72 THE HOUSE IN TOWN.
children always. And with company of course it is impos-
sible; and that makes irregularity ; and that is bad."
"I suppose it is best so," said Mrs Laval, with half a sigh.
"What room is Matilda to have, mother ? "
Matilda ?-Oh! your new child. You want her to have
a room to herself ?"
"I will let her have the little front corner room, if you
like. There is room enough."
"That will do," said Mrs Laval. "Come, darling, let us
go up-stairs and look at it. Then you will begin to feel at
She sprang off the sofa, and taking Matilda's hand they
mounted together the second flight of stairs-wide, uncar-
peted, smooth, polished stairs they were-to the upper hall.
Just at the head of the stairs Mrs Laval opened a door. It
let them into a pretty little room ; little indeed only by com-
parison with other larger apartments of the house; it was
of a pleasant size, with two great windows; and being a
corner room, its windows looked out in two directions, over
two several city views. Matilda had no time to examine
them just then ; her attention was absorbed by the room.
It had a rich carpet; the hangings and covering of the bed
were dark green; an elegant little toilet table was furnished
with crystal, and the wash-closet had painted green china
dishes. There were pictures here too, and little foot cush-
ions, and a beautiful chest of drawers, and a tall wardrobe
for dresses. The room was full.
"This will do very nicely," said Mrs Laval. "You wanted
a south window, Matilda; here it is. I think you will like
this room better than one of those large ones, darling; they
are large enough for you to get lost in. See, here is the gas-
jet, when you want light; and here are matches, Matilda.
And now you will have a place where you can be by your-
self when you wish it; and at other times you can come
down to me. You will feel at home, when you get estab-
lished here, and have some dresses to hang up in that ward-
robe. That is one of the first things you and I must attend
THE HOUSE IN TOWN. 73
to. I could not do it at Shadywalk. So come down now,
dear, to my room, and we will get ready for dinner. Are
you tired, love ?"
Matilda met and answered the kiss that ended this speech,
and went down-stairs again a very contented child. How-
ever, all her getting ready for dinner that day consisted in
a very thorough brushing of her short hair, and a little fur-
tive endeavour to get rid of some specks of dust on her
boots. She sat down then and waited, while Mrs Laval
changed her travelling dress, and Mrs Bartholomew alter-
nately assisted and talked to her. That elegant crimson
satin robe swept round the room in a way that was very
imposing to Matilda. She could not help feeling like a little
brown thrush in the midst of a company of resplendent
parrots and birds of paradise. But she did not much care.
Only she thought it would be very pleasant to have the
wardrobe up-stairs furnished with a set of dresses to corre-
spond somewhat with her new splendid surroundings. Mrs
Bartholomew had not spoken to her yet, nor anybody, ex-
cept Mrs Laval's mother. Matilda thought herself forgotten;
but when the ladies were about to go down-stairs, Mrs Laval
called her sister's attention to the subject.
Judith, this is my new child."
Mrs Bartholomew cast a comprehensive glance at Ma-
tilda, or all over her. Matilda could not have told whether
she had looked at her until then.
"Where did you pick her up, Zara 3''
I did not pick her up," said Mrs Laval, smiling at Matilda.
" A wave wafted her into my arms."
What sort of a wave ? said the other lady drily.
No matter what sort of a wave. You see from what sort
of a shore this flower must have drifted."
"You are poetical," said the other, laughing slightly. "You
always were. Shall we go down ?"
"Mrs Laval stretched out her hand to Matilda and held it
in a warm clasp as they went down the stairs; and still held
her fast and seated her by herself in the drawing-room. It was
the only point of connection with the rest of the world that
74 THE HOUSE IN TOWN.
Matilda felt she had just then, until Norton came running
down-stairs with his two cousins, and entered the room.
Come here, Judy," said Mrs Laval. This is my new
little daughter, Matilda. You two must be good cousins
Miss Black-eyes took Matilda's hand ; but somehow
Matilda could perceive neither the friendship nor the cousin-
ship.in the touch of it.
"Matilda what ?" Miss Judith asked. Her aunt hesitated
"She has not learned yet to do without her old name.
Her new name is mine, of course."
Matilda was a good deal startled and a little dismayed.
Was she to give up her own name, then, and be called Laval ?
She had not heard of it before. She was not sure that she
liked it at all. There was no time to think about it now.
"David," Mrs Laval went on, "come here. I want you
all to be good friends as soon as possible."
She put Matilda's hand in his as she spoke. But David
said never a word; only he bowed over Matilda's hand
in the most calmly polite manner, and let it drop. He was
not shy, Matilda thought, or he could not have made such
an elegant reverence; but he did not speak a word. His
aunt laughed a little, and yet gave a glance of admiration at
"You are not changed," she said.
Changed in what ? Matilda wondered; and she looked to
see what she could make out in David Bartholomew. He
was not so dark as his sister; he had rich brown hair; and
the black eyes were not snapping and sparkling like hers,
but large, lustrous, proud, and rather gloomy, it seemed to
the little stranger's fancy. She looked away again; she did
not like him. In another minute they were called to
It was but to walk across the hall, and Matilda found
herself seated at the most imposing board she had ever
beheld. Certainly everything at Mrs Laval's table was
beautiful and costly ; but there it had been only a table for
THE HOUSE IN TOWN. 75
two or three; no company, and the simplest way of the
house. Here there was a good tableful, and a large table;
and the sparkle of glass and silver quite dazzled the child's
unaccustomed eyes. How much silver, and what brilliant
and beautiful glass She wondered at the profusion of forks
by her own plate, and almost thought the waiter must have
made a mistake; but she saw Nortori was as well supplied.
The lights, and the flowers, and the fruit in the centre of the
table, and the gay silks and laces around it, and all the ap-
pointments of the elegant room, almost bewildered Matilda.
Yet she thought it was very pleasant too, and extremely
pretty; and discovered that eating dinner was a great deal
more of a pleasure when the eyes could be so gratified at the
same time with the taste. However soup was soup, she
found, to a hungry little girl.
"Pink," said Norton, after he had swallowed his soup,
" where do you think we will go first ?" Norton had got a
seat beside her and spoke in a confidential whisper.
I am going with your mother to-morrow," Matilda re-
turned in an answering whisper. So she said."
"That won't tire you out," said Norton. "After she
goes, or before she goes, you and I will go. Where
You and I alone ?" said Matilda, softly.
"Norton," said Matilda, very softly, "I think I want to go
first of all to the shoemaker's."
Norton had nearly burst out into a laugh, but he crammed
his napkin against his face.
"You dear Pink !" he said; "that isn't anywhere. That's
business. I mean pleasure. You see, next week I shall
begin to go to school, and my time will be pretty nicely taken
up, except Saturday. We have got three days before next
week. And you have got to see everything."
"But, Norton, I do not know what there is to see."
"That's true. You don't, to be sure. Well, Pink, there's
the Park ; but we must have a good day for that ; to-day is
so cold it would bite our noses. We can go every afternoon
76 THE HOUSE IN TOWN.
if it's good. Then there is the Museum and there is a
famous menagerie just now."
"O Norton !" said Matilda.
"Do you mean a menagerie with lions and an elephant?"
"Lions and spendid tigers, David says; and an elephant,
and a hippopotamus; and ever so many other creatures
besides. All of them splendid, David says."
"I did not use that word," David remarked from the
other side of the table.
"All right," said Norton. "It is my word. Then, Pink,
we'll pay our respects to the lions and tigers the first thing.
After the shoe"-
"Hush, Norton," said Matilda; "you forget yourself."
Norton laughed, pleased ;for Matilda's little head had
taken its independent set upon her shoulders, and it showed
him that she was feeling at ease, and not shy and strange,
as he had feared she might. In truth, the lions and tigers
had drawn Matilda out of herself. And now she was able
to enjoy roast-beef and plum-pudding and ice-cream as well
as anybody, and perhaps more, for to her they were an unusual
combination of luxuries. Now and then she glanced at the
other people around the table. Mrs Lloyd always seemed
to her like a queen ; the head of the house; and the head of
such a house was as good as a queen. Judith looked like a
young lady who took, and could take, a great many liberties
in it. David, like a grave, reserved boy, who never wanted
to take one. Mrs Bartholomew seemed a luxurious fine
lady ; Matilda's impression was that she cared not much for
anybody or anything except herself and her children. And
how rich they all must be Not Mrs Lloyd alone, but all
these. Their dress showed it, and their talk, and their air
still more. It was the air of people who wanted nothing
they could not have, and did not know what it meant to
want anything long. Mrs Lloyd was drinking one sort of
wine, Mrs Bartholomew another, and Mrs Laval another;
one had a little clear wine-glass, another a yellow bowl-like
goblet, much larger; the third had a larger still. Every place
THE HOUSE IN TOWN. 77
was provided with the three glasses, Matilda saw. Just as her
observations had got thus far, she was startled to see Norton
sign the servant and hold his claret-glass to be filled.
Matilda's thoughts went into a whirl immediately. She
had not seen Norton take wine at home; it brought trooping
round her, by contrast, the recollections of Shadywalk, the
Sunday-school room, the meetings of the Commission, and
Mr Richmond, and talk about temperance, and her pledge
to do all she could to help the cause of temperance. Now,
here was a field. Yes, and there was David Bartholomew
on the other side of the table, he also was just filling his
glass. But what could Matilda do here ? Would these boys
listen to her ? And yet she had promised to do all she could
for the cause of temperance. She could certainly do some-
thing in the way of trying at least. She must. To try is
in everybody's power. But now she found, as she thought
about it, that it would be very difficult even to try. It is
inconceivable how unwilling she felt to say one word to
Norton on the subject; and as for David !-Well, she need
not think of David at present; he was a stranger. If she
could get Norton to listen Bat she could not get Norton
to listen, she was sure; and what was the use of making a
fuss and being laughed at just for nothing ? Only, she had
The working of these thoughts pretty well spoiled
Matilda's ice-cream. There was a trembling of other
thoughts, too, around these, that were also rather un-
welcome. But she could not think them out then. The
company had left the table and gathered in another room,
and there a great deal of talk and discussion of many things
went on, including winter plans for the children and home
arrangements, in which Matilda was interested. Shopping,
also, and what stuffs and what colours were most in favour,
and fashions of making and wearing. Matilda had certainly
been used to hear talk on such subjects in the days of her
mother's life-time, when the like points were eagerly debated
between her and her older children. But then it was always
with questions. That is fashionable; and Wlhat can we manage
78 THE HOUSE IN TOWN.
to get? Now and here, that questioning was replaced by
calm knowledge and certainty, and the power to do as they
pleased. So the subject became doubly interesting. The
two boys had gone off together ; and the two girls, mixing
with the group of their elders, listened and formed their
own opinions of each other at least. For every now and
then the black eyes and the brown eyes met; glances
inquiring, determining, but almost as nearly repellant as
anything else. So passed the evening; and Matilda was
very glad when it was time to go to bed.
Mrs Laval went with her to her pretty room, and saw
with motherly care that all was in order and everything
there which ought to be there. The room was warm,
though no fire was to be seen; the gas was lit; and com-
plete luxury filled every corner and met every want, even of
the eye. And after a fond good night, Matilda was left to
herself. She was in a very confused state of mind. It was
a strange place; she half wished they were back in Shady-
walk ; but with that were mixed floating visions of shopping
and her filled wardrobe, visions of driving in the Park with
Norton, fancies of untold wonderful things to be seen in
this new great city, with its streets and its shops and its rich
and its poor people. No; she could not forego the seeing of
these; she was glad to be in New York. Were there not the
menagerie and Stewart's awaiting her to-morrow ? But
what sort of a life she was to live here, and how far it would
be possible for her to be like the Matilda Englefield of
Shadywalk-why, she was not to be Matilda Englefield at
all, but Laval. Could that be the same? Slowly, while
she thought all this, Matilda opened her little trunk and
took out her nightdress and her comb and brush, and her
Bible ; and then-the habit was as fixed as the other.habit of
going to bed-she opened her Bible, brought a pretty little
table that was in the room, put it under the gaslight, and
knelt down to read and pray. She opened anywhere, and
read without very well understanding what she read ; the
thoughts of lions and tigers, and green poplin, and red
cashmere, making a strange web with the lines of Bible
THE HOUSE IN TOWN. 79
thought, over which her eye travelled. Till her eyes came
to a word so plain, so clear, and touching her so nearly,
that she all at once, as it were, woke up out of her maze.
Who mind earthly things."
What is that ? Must one not mind earthly things
Then she went back to the beginning of the sentence, to
see better what it meant.
"For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and
now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the
cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose God is their
belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly
"Must one not mind earthly things ?" thought Matilda.
"How can one help minding them ? How can I help it 1
All the people in this house mind nothing else. Neither
did they all at home, when mother was alive, mind any-
thing else. Mr Richmond does."
She went back now to the beginning of the chapter and
read it anew. It was easier to read than to think. The
chapter was the third of Philippians. She did not know
who wrote it ; she did not exactly understand a good part of
it ; nevertheless one thing was clear, a heart set on something
not earthly, and minding nothing that interfered with or
did not help that. So much was clear ; and also that the
chapter spoke of certain people not moved by a like spirit
as enemies of the cross of Christ. It was the hardest read-
ing, Matilda thought, she had ever done in her Bible. If
this is what it is to be a Christian, it was easier to be a Chris-
tian when she was darning lace for Mrs Candy and roasting
coffee-beans in her kitchen for Maria. But she did not wish
to be back there. Some way could be found, surely, of being
a Christian, and keeping her pretty room and having her
wardrobe filled. And here Matilda became so sleepy, the
fatigue and excitement of this long day settling down upon
her now that the day was over, that she could neither think
nor read any more. She was obliged to go to bed.
THE second of December rose keen and clear, like the first;
but inside Matilda's room there was a state of pleasant
summer temperature; she could hardly understand that it
was cold enough outside to make the pretty frosting on her
window-panes which hindered the view. She dressed in
royal comfort, and in a delightful stir of expectation and
hope. It was really New York, and she was going to
Stewart's to-day. The cold would not bite her as it used to
do in Shadywalk, for they would be in a carriage.
When she was dressed she contrived to clear a loophole
in her frosted window, and looked out. The sun shone on
a long, clean, handsome street, lined with houses that looked
as if all New York were made of money. Brick and stone
fronts rose to stately heights, as far as her eye could see;
windows were filled with beautiful large panes of glass, like
her own window, and lace and drapery behind them testified
to the inside adorning and beautifying. There could not be
any one living in all that street who was not rich; nothing
but plenty and ease could possibly be behind such house-
fronts. Then Matilda saw an omnibus going down the
street; but her breath dimmed her look-out place, and she
had to give it up for that time. It was her hour for read-
ing and praying. Matilda was a little inclined to shrink
from it, fearing lest she might come upon some other pas-
sage that would give her trouble. She thought, for this
morning, she would turn to a familiar chapter, which she
had read many a time, and where she had never found any-
thing to confuse her. She began the fifth of Matthew.
But she had read only fifteen verses, and she came to
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see
THE HOUSE IN TOWN. 81
your good works and glorify your Father which is in
If a ray of the very sunshine, pointed and tipped with fire
like a spear, so that it could prick her, had come in through the
frosting on the window-pane and smote upon Matilda's face,
she would not more keenly have felt the touch. It had never
touched her before, that verse, with anything but rose-leaf
softness; now it pricked. Why ? The little girl was troubled;
and leaning her elbows on the table and her head in her hands,
she began to think. And then she began to pray. "Let
your light shine." The light must burn if it was to shine;
that was one thing; and she must let no screen come between
the light and those who should see it. Fear must not come
there, nor shame, to hide or cover the light. And the light
itself must be bright. Nobody would see a dim shining.
By and by, as she pondered and prayed, with her head in her
hands, this word and last night's word joined themselves
together; and she began to see, that "minding earthly
things" would act to hide the light first, and then to put it
out. So far she got; but the battle was only set in array;
it was not fought nor gained, when she was called down to
The rest of the family were all seated at the table before
the two boys came in.
Pink," Norton burst forth, as soon as he had said good
morning, "we must get there at feeding time "
"Here you are!" said David, waggishly; and Matilda
looking up, saw Judith's black eyes all on fire and a flash of
the same fun in her brother's face. Those proud eyes could
sparkle, then. Her look passed to Norton. But he was as
cool as usual.
Mamma," he said, "I am going to take Pink this morning
to the menagerie."
"You had better wait till she has something to wear,
"When will that be, ma'am ? It won't take long will it ?"
"I do not know."
"Mamma, Pink does not care, and I do not care. She has
82 THE HOUSE IN TOWN.
never seen a live lion in her life; and it will not make any
difference with the lions. I guess she will keep warm. I
want to be there at twelve o'clock; or I want to be there
before. They feed the animals at twelve o'clock, and they're
"We feed the animals here at one o'clock," said his grand-
mother. "I hope you will remember that."
"Do you want to go, Matilda ? Mrs Laval asked.
"She has never seen a lion," repeated Norton.
"Somebody else has never seen a monkey," said Judith.
That is somebody who don't live in the house with Judy
Bartholomew," Norton returned.
"We don't want to see a bear, either," said Miss Judy,
Well, remember and be at home for luncheon," said Mrs
Laval. "I want Matilda after that."
The breakfast went on now delightfully. Matilda some-
times lifted her eyes to look at her opposite neighbours;
they had a fascination for her. Judith was such a sprite of
mischief, to judge from her looks ; and David was so utterly
unlike Norton. Norton was always acute and frank, out-
spoken when he had a mind, fearless and careless at all
times. Fearless David might be, but not careless, unless
his face belied him; he did not look as if it were often his
pleasure to be outspoken, or to show what he was thinking
of. And that was the oddest of all, that he did not seem
light-hearted. Matilda fancied he was proud; she was sure
that he was reserved. In the family gatherings he was seen,
but not heard; and she thought he did not care much for
what was going on. Nothing escaped Judy's ears or eyes;
and nothing was serious with her which she could turn into
fun. Her eyes gave a funny snap now and then, when they
met Matilda's eyes across the table, as if she had her own
thoughts about Matilda, and knew half of Matilda's thoughts
about her. Matilda hoped she would not take it into her
head to go to the menagerie.
"Norton, I believe I'll go too," said Judith, the next
THE HOUSE IN TOWN. 83
"Where? said Norton.
"To the menagerie. Where should I go ?"
"All right," said Norton. "But if you are going to do
me the honour to go with me, you must wait till I have
brought Matilda back. I can't take care of both of you."
"I don't want you to take care of me," said Judy.
"I know that. But I am going to take care of Matilda."
"Why cannot you take care of both of them ?" his grand-
mother asked, interrupting Judith.
"Make Judith tell first why she wants to go, grand-
mamma. She has been lots of times."
"Grandmamma," said Judy, with her eyes snapping, "I
want to see a new sort of wild animal, just come, and to see
how it will look at the tigers."
They all laughed, but Mrs Laval put her arm round Ma-
tilda, and stooped down and kissed her.
"Judith is a wild animal herself, isn't she, dear? She is
a sort of little wild-cat. But she has soft paws; they don't
Matilda was not quite so sure of this. However, when
they left the table, Judith set about gaining her point in
earnest; but Norton was not to be won over. He was going
with Matilda alone, he said, the first time; and so he did.
It was all enjoyment then, as soon as Matilda and Norton
left the house together. Matilda was in a new world. Her
eyes were busy making observations everywhere.
"How beautiful the houses are, Norton !" she said, when
they had gone a block or two. "There are not many poor
people in New York, are there ?"
"Well, occasionally you see one," said Norton.
"I don't see anything that looks like one. Norton, why
do they have the middle of the street covered with those
round stones ? They make such a racket when the carts and
carriages go over them. It is very disagreeable."
"Is it ? said Norton. You won't hear it after you have
been here a little while."
"Not hear it ? But why do they have it so, Norton ?"
"Why, Pink, just think of the dust we should have, and
84 THE HOUSE IN TOWN.
the mud, if it was all like Shadywalk, and these thousands
of wheels cutting into it all the time."
Matilda was silenced. One difference brings on another,
she was learning to find out. But now Norton hailed a
street-car and they got into it. The warmth of the car was
very pleasant after the keen wind in the streets. And here
also the people who filled it, though most of them certainly
not rich people, and many very far from that, yet looked to
a certain degree comfortable. But just as Norton and Ma-
tilda got out, and were about to enter the building, where an
enormous painted canvas with a large brown lion upon it
told that the menagerie was to be seen, Matilda stopped
short. A little ragged boy, about as old as herself, offered
hera handful of black round-headed pins. What did he
mean I Matilda looked at him, and at the pins.
"Come on," cried Norton. "What is that ?-No, we don't
want any of you're goods just now; at least I don't. Come
in, Pink. You need not stop to speak to everybody that
stops to speak to you."
What did he want, Norton, that boy i"
"Wanted to sell hairpins. Didn't you see ?"
Matilda cast a look back at the sideway, where the boy
was trying another passenger for custom; but Norton drew
her on, and the boy was forgotten in some extraordinary
noises she heard; she had heard them as soon as she entered
the door; strange, mingled noises, going up and down a
scale of somewhat powerful, unearthly notes. She asked
Norton what they were ?
"The lions, Pink," said Norton, with intense satisfaction.
"The lions, and the rest of the company. Come-here
And having paid his fee, he pushed open a swinging baize-
door, and they entered a very long room or gallery, where
the sounds became to be sure very unmistakable. They almost
terrified Matilda, so wildly were mingled growls and cries
and low roarings, all in one restless, confused murmur. The
next minute she all but forgot the noise. She was looking
at two superb Bengal tigers, a male and a female, in one
THE HOUSE IN TOWN. 85
large cage. They were truly superb. Large and lithe,
magnificent in port and action, beautiful in the colour and
marking of their smooth hides. But restless? That is no
word strong enough to fit the ceaseless impatient movement
with which the male tiger went from one corner of his iron
cage to the other corner, and back again; changing con-
stantly only to renew the change. One bound in his native
jungle would have carried him over many times the space
which now he paced eagerly or angrily with a few confined
steps. The tigress meanwhile knew his mood and her
wisdom so well that she took care never to be in his way;
and as the cage was not large enough to allow her mate to
turn round in the corner where she stood, she regularly took
a flying leap over his back whenever he came near that
corner. Again and again and again, the one lordly creature
trod from end to end the floor of his prison, and every time,
like a feather, so lightly and gracefully, the huge powerful
form of the other floated over his back and alighted in the
"Do they keep doing that all the time?" said Matilda,
when she had stood spell-bound before the cage for some
"It's near feeding-time," said Norton. "I suppose they
know it and it makes them worry; or else know they are
hungry, which answers just as well."
"Poor creatures!" said Matilda. "If that tiger could
break his cage now, how far do you think he could jump,
"I don't know," said Norton. As far as to you or me,
I guess; or else over all our heads, to get at that coloured
The woman was sweeping the floor, a little way behind
the two talkers, and heard them. "Yes! she said, "he'd
want me fust thing, sure."
"Why ?" whispered Matilda.
Likes the dark meat best," said Norton. Fact, Pink;
they say they do."
Matilda gazed with a new fascination on the beautiful,
86 THE HOUSE IN TOWN.
terrible creatures. Could it be possible that those very
animals had actually tasted dark meat" at home ?
Yes," said Norton; "there are hundreds of the natives
carried off and eaten by the tigers, I heard a gentleman
telling mother, every year, in the province of Bengal alone.
Come, Pink; we can look at these fellows again. I want you
to see some of the others before they are fed."
They went on with less delay, till they came to the
Russian bear. At the great blocks of ice in his cage Matilda
Is he so warm ?" she said,-" in this weather ?"
This room's pretty comfortable," said Norton; "and to
him I suppose it's as bad as a hundred and fifty degrees of
the thermometer would be to us. He's accustomed to fifty
degrees below zero."
"I don't know what 'below zero' means, exactly," said
Matilda. But then those great pieces of ice cannot do
him much good ?"
Not much," said Norton.
"And he must be miserable," said Matilda; "just that
we may look at him."
Do you wish he was back again where he came from ?"
said Norton; all comfortable, with ice at his back and ice
under his feet; where we couldn't see him "
But, Norton, isn't it cruel?"
Isn't what cruel ? "
"To have him here, just for our pleasure? I am very
glad to see him, of course."
"I thought you were," said Norton. Why I suppose
we cannot have anything, Pink, without somebody being
uncomfortable for it, somewhere. I am very often un-
Matilda was inclined to laugh at him ; but there was no
time. She had come face to face with the lions. Except
for those low strange roars, they did not impress her as much
as their neighbours from Bengal. But she studied them,
carefully enough to please Norton, who was making a very
delight to himself, and a great study, of her pleasure.
THE HOUSE IN TOWN. 87
Further on, Matilda was brought to a long stand again
before the wolf's cage. It was a small cage, so small that
in turning round he rubbed his nose against the wall at each
end; for the ends were boarded up, and the creature did
nothing but turn round. At each end of the cage there was
a regular spot on tle boards, made by his nose as lie lifted
it a little to get round the more easily, and yet not enough
to avoid touching. Yet he went round and round, restlessly,
without stopping for more than an instant at a time.
"Poor fellow poor fellow! was again Matilda's outcry.
" He keeps doing that all the time, Norton; see the places
where his nose rubs."
"Don't say'poor fellow' about a wolf," said Norton.
"Why not ? He is only an animal."
"He is a wicked animal."
"Why, Norton, he don't know any better than to be
wicked. Do you think some animals are really worse than
I'm certain of it," said Norton.
"But they only do what it is in their nature to do."
"Yes, and different animals have different natures. Now
look at that wolf's eyes; see what cruel, sly, bad eyes they
are. Think what beautiful eyes a horse has-a good
And sheep have beautiful eyes," said Matilda.
"And pigs have little, ugly, dirty eyes; mean and wicked
too. You need not laugh; it is true."
I don't know how pigs' eyes look," said Matilda. But it
is very curious. For of course they do not know any better;
so how should they be wicked ? Those tigers, they looked
as if they hadn't any heart at all. Don't you think a dog
has a heart, Norton ?"
Norton laughed, and pulled her on to a cage at a little dis-
tance from the wolf, where there were a party of'monkeys.
And next door to them was a small ape in a cell alone.
Matilda forgot everything else here. These creatures were so
inimitably odd, sly, and comical; had such an air of knowing
what they were about, and expecting you to understand it
88 THE HOUSE IN TOWN.
too; looking at you as though they could take you into their
confidence, if it were worth while; it was impossible to get
away from them. Norton had some nuts in his pocket; with
these he and the monkeys made great game; while the little
ape raked in the straw litter of his cage to find any stray
seeds or bits of food which might have sifted down through
it to the floor, managing his long hand-like paw as gracefully
as the most elegant lady could move her dainty fingers.
Matilda and Norton stayed with the monkeys till the feeding
hour had arrived; then Norton hurried back to the tigers.
A man was coming the rounds with a basket full of great
joints of raw meat; and it was notable to see how carefully
"he had to manage to let the tiger have his piece before the
tigress got hers. He watched and waited, till he got a chance
to thrust the meat into the cage at the end where the tiger's
paw would the next instant be.
Why Matilda asked Norton.
"There'd be an awful fight, I guess, if he didn't," said
Norton; "and that other creature would stand a chance to
get whipped, and her coat would be scratched; that's all
the man cares for."
"And is that the reason the tigress keeps out of the tiger's
way so ?"
"Of course. Some people would say, I suppose that she
"I never should, to look in her face," said Matilda, laughing.
"Tigers certainly are wicked. But they do not know any
better. How can.it be wickedness ?"
"Now come, Pink," said Norton; "we have got to be
home by one, you know, and there's a fellow you haven't
seen yet-the hippopotamus. We must go into another place
to see him."
He was by himself, in a separate room, as Norton had said,
where a large tank was prepared and filled with water for
his accommodation. Matilda looked at him a long time in
silence and with great attention.
Do you know, Norton," she said, this is the behemoth
the Bible speaks about ?"
THE HOUSE IN TOWN. 89
"I don't know at all," said Norton. How do you
"Mr Richmond says so; he says people have found out
that it is so. But he don't seem to me very big, Norton, for
The keeper explained that the animal was a young one,
and but half grown.
"How tremendously ugly he is !" said Norton.
And what a wonderful number of different animals there
are in the world," said Matilda. This is unlike anything
I ever saw. I wonder why there are such a number "
"And so many of them not good for anything," said
"0 Norton, you can't say that, you know."
"Why not ? This fellow, for instance; what is he good
"I don't know; and you don't know. But that's just it,
Norton. You don't know."
Well, what are lions and tigers good for said Norton.
"I suppose we know about them. What are they good
"Why, Norton, I can't tell," said Matilda. "I would
very much like to know. But they must be good for some-
"To eat up people, and make the places where they live a
terror," said Norton.
"I don't know," said Matilda, with a very puzzled look
on her little face. "It seems so strange when you think of
it. And those great serpents, Norton, that live where the
lions and tigers live; they are worse yet."
Little and big," said Norton. I do despise a snake "
"And crocodiles," said Matilda. "And wolves, and bears.
I wonder if the Bible tells anything about it."
"The Bible don't tell everything, Pink," said Norton,
"No, but I remember now what it does say," said Matilda.
"It says that God saw everything that He had made, and
it was very good."
90 THE HOUSE IN TOWN.
Norton looked with a funny look at his little companion,
amused, and yet with a kind of admiration mixed with his
"I wonder how you and David would get along," he re-
marked. He is as touchy on that subject as you are."
"What subject ?" said Matilda. "The Bible?"
"The Old Testament. The Jewish Scriptures. Not the
New! Don't ever bring up the New Testament to him,
Pink, unless you want stormy weather."
"Is he bad-tempered ?" Matilda asked, curiously.
He's Jewish-tempered," said Norton. "He has his
own way of looking at things, and he don't like yours. I
mean, anybody's but his own. What a quantity it must
take to feed this enormous creature "
"You may take your affidavit of that !" said the keeper,
who was an Irishman. "Faith, I think he's as bad as fifty
"What do you give him ?"
"Well, he belongs to the vegetable kingdom entirely, ye
He's a curious water-lily, isn't he ?" said Norton low to
Matilda. But that was more than either of them could
stand, and they turned away and left the place to laugh.
It was time then, they found, to go home.
A car was not immediately in sight when they came out
into the street, and Norton and Matilda walked a few blocks
rather than stand still. It had grown to be a very disagree-
able day. The weather was excessively cold, and a very
strong wind had risen ; which now went careering along the
streets, catching up all the dust of them in turn, and before let-
ting it drop again, whirling it furiously against everybody in
its way. Matilda struggled along, but the dust came in thick
clouds, and filled her eyes and mouth and nose, and lodged
in all her garments. It seemed to go through everything
she had on, and with the dirt came the cold. Shadywalk
never saw anything like this! As they were crossing one
of the streets in their way, Matilda stopped short, just before
setting her foot on the curb-stone. A little girl with a
THE HOUSE IN TOWN. 91
broom in her hand stood before her, and held out her other
hand for a penny. The child was ragged, and her rags were
of the colour of the dust which filled everything that day;
hair and face and dress were all of one hue.
"Please, a penny," she said, barring Matilda's way.
Norton, have you got a penny ?" said Matilda, bewildered.
"Nonsense!" said Norton, "we can't be bothered to stop
for all the street-sweepers we meet. Come on, Pink." He
seized Matilda's hand, and she was drawn on, out of the
little girl's range, before she could stop to think about it.
Two streets further on, they crossed an avenue; and here
Matilda saw two more children with brooms, a boy and a
girl. This time she saw what they were about. They were
sweeping the crossing clean for the feet of the passers-by.
But their own feet were bare on the stones. The next
minute Norton had hailed a car, and he and Matilda got in.
Her eyes and mouth were so full of dust, and she was so
cold, it was a little while before she could ask questions
What are those children you wouldn't let me speak to ?"
she said, as soon as she was a little recovered.
"Street-sweepers," said Norton. "Regular nuisances!
The police ought to take them up, and shut them up."
"Why, Norton "
"Why ? why, because they're such a nuisance. You can't
walk a half mile without having half a dozen of them hold-
ing out their hands for pennies. A fellow can't carry his
pocket full of pennies, and keep it full! "
"But they sweep the streets, don't they ?"
"The crossings; yes. I wish they didn't. They are an
"But, Norton, isn't it nice to have the crossings swept ? I
thought it was a great deal pleasanter than to have to go
through the thick dust and dirt which was everywhere else."
"Yes, but when they come every block or two?" said
"Are there so many of them ?"
"There's no end to them," said Norton.